Friday, December 17, 2010


"Ue o muite aruko" is a Japanese song that was performed by Japanese crooner Kyu Sakamoto, and written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura. It is best known under its alternative title "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking parts of the world. The song reached the top of the Billboard Hot 100 charts in the United States in 1963, and was the only Japanese language song to do so. In total it sold over 13 million copies internationally. The original Kyu Sakamoto recording also went to number eighteen on the R&B charts.

The lyrics tell the story of a man who looks up and whistles while he is walking so that his tears won't fall. The verses of the song describe his memories and feelings. The title, sukiyaki (which is a Japanese steamboat dish), has nothing to do with the lyrics or the meaning of the song; the word served the purpose only because it was short, catchy, recognizably Japanese, and more familiar to most English speakers. A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."

Sakamoto's follow-up to "Sukiyaki," "China Nights (Shina no Yoru)," charted in 1963 at number fifty-eight. That was the last song by an artist from Japan to reach the U.S. pop charts for sixteen years, until the female duo Pink Lady had a top forty hit in 1979 with their English-language song "Kiss in the Dark".

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