Kyu Sakamoto & Family


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Life of Kyu Sakamoto, a Japanese Popular Song Artist     Sakamotoiana at Amazon.com

Kyu Sakamoto (Sakamoto Kyu in Japanese) was born Hisashi Oshima (Oshima Hisashi in Japanese) on 10 November 1941 in Kawasaki City, Kanagawa Prefecture. He made his show business debut in 1960.

His biggest hit, Ue o Muite Aruko (I Look Up When I Walk; Sukiyaki in the West), was released in Japan in 1961. After its release in the U.S. in 1963, the song's earnestness and melodic beauty proved irresistible despite its incomprehensible lyrics. Against all odds, on 15 June 1963, the song ousted Leslie Gore's It's My Party to become the No. 1 popular song in the U.S. (After three weeks at No. 1 on the Billboard chart, Sukiyaki was deposed by Easier Said Than Done by The Essex.) To this date, Sukiyaki remains the biggest international hit by a Japanese popular singer.

Credit for the song's popularity also is due to the music by Hachidai Nakamura and the lyrics by Rokusuke Ei, who is said to have written this touching evocation of loneliness after his heart was broken by the actress Meiko Nakamura.

Why the title Sukiyaki? The explanation is simple: intercultural ignorance. Western DJs needed a song title that was at once easily pronounceable and associated with Japan. So, "Sukiyaki" was it, even though the word is not mentioned in the song.

Nicknamed Kyu-chan (an affectionate diminutive) for his sincerity and charming smile, he also recorded such popular songs as "Shiawase Nara Te o Tatako" and "Miagete Goran Sora no Hoshi o."

Sadly and prematurely, 43-year-old Kyu Sakamoto was killed on 12 August 1985, when JAL Flight 123, a 747 bound from Haneda Airport in Tokyo to Osaka, lost pieces of its tail sections and spiraled downward nightmarishly for 30 minutes (long enough for some passengers to scribble shaky farewells to their families). The plane crashed and burned on a thickly wooded mountain about 60 miles northwest of Tokyo, killing 520 and injuring four, in the worst single airplane disaster in aviation history.

Although Kyu Sakamoto's golden voice was stilled, his songs remain popular in Japan and overseas.

Kyuchan's life and work are commemorated at the Sakamoto Kyu Memorial Hall.


Order Kyu Sakamoto's Music (Click Image)

Collected Hits
Sukiyaki
Sukiyaki 2000
Collected Hits. (Zen Hitto Shusei) Billboard 1963 Top Hits (including Sukiyaki) Sukiyaki 2000, Millennium Version, by Kyu Sakamoto & Maiko. CD single. Japanese import. Techno version of Sukiyaki featuring the original vocal.

Sukiyaki Lyrics (by Rokusuke Ei)

Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Omoidasu haru no hi Remembering those happy spring days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Omoidasu natsu no hi Remembering those happy summer days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni Happiness lies above the sky
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling)
Omoidasu aki no hi Remembering those happy autumn days
Hitoribotchi no yoru But tonight I'm all alone
Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon
Ue o muite arukoo I look up when I walk
Namida ga kobore nai yoo ni So the tears won't fall
Nakinagara aruku Though my heart is filled with sorrow *
Hitoribotchi no yoru For tonight I'm all alone
(whistling) (whistling)

* Note that poetic license was used to render the English lyrics.


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