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Sukiyaki (song): Wikis


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"Ue o muite arukō (Sukiyaki)"
Single by Kyu Sakamoto
from the album Sukiyaki and Other Japanese Hits (US)
B-side "Anoko No Namaewa Nantenkana"
Released 1961 (Japan)
1963 (US, UK)
Genre J-pop, Pop
Length 3:05
Label Toshiba-EMI (Japan)
Capitol (US)
Writer(s) Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura
Sukiyaki and Other Japanese Hits track listing
"Tsun Tsun Bushi" ("The Tsun Tsun Song")

"Ue o muite arukō" (上を向いて歩こう "[I] shall walk looking up") 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 sales 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.[1][2] The original Kyu Sakamoto recording also went to number eighteen on the R&B chart.[3] The recording was originally released in Japan by Toshiba in 1961. It topped the Popular Music Selling Record chart in the Japanese magazine Music Life for three months. Well-known English-language cover versions include a 1981 cover by A Taste of Honey and a 1995 cover by 4 P.M.



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 him doing this through each season of the year. The English lyrics of the version recorded by A Taste of Honey are not a translation of the original Japanese lyrics but a completely different set of lyrics set to the same basic melody. Probably the nearest translation, at least in feel, was recorded by US soul singer Jewel Akens, on ERA records, as "My First Lonely Night" which, although not a literal translation, tells a similar story. A lonely man walks through the night, after losing his love.

Popularisation in English-speaking countries

In 1963, the British record label Pye Records released a cover version of the song by Kenny Ball and his Jazzmen. They were concerned that English-speaking audiences might find the original title too difficult to remember/pronounce, so they gave it the new title of "Sukiyaki'". This title was retained when Capitol Records in the United States, and His Master's Voice (HMV) in the UK, released Kyu Sakamoto's original version a few months later.

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 (very few of whom could understand the Japanese lyrics anyway). A Newsweek columnist noted that the re-titling was like issuing "Moon River" in Japan under the title "Beef Stew."[4]

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".

Covers and variations

Several artists have recorded cover versions of the song, while others have written and/or performed songs based on the melody. A 1981 cover by A Taste of Honey reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart (reaching number one on the adult contemporary and R&B charts), [5]. while a 1995 version by 4 P.M. reached number eight.

Both the 4 P.M. and A Taste of Honey versions used the same English-language lyrics, written by Taste of Honey's Janice Marie Johnson. Johnson is quoted in The Billboard Book of Number One R&B Hits by Fred Bronson as saying that when she translated the original Japanese lyrics into English, she found out that the lyrics could be interpreted in three ways: as a man on his way to his execution, as someone trying to be optimistic despite life's trials, or as the story of an ended love affair. "Me being the hopeless romantic that I am," she explained, "I decided to write about a love gone bad." Thus, the English version featured lyrics like: "In reality/You and I will never be/'Cause you took your love away from me." A Taste of Honey, who were quite popular in Japan (Johnson and her bandmate, Hazel Payne, often wore kimonos in concert), also considered their version of the song a tribute to one of the countries where they were most popular, and added a whispered "Sayonara" at the end of the song.

In 2000, solo violinist Diana Yukawa recorded "Sukiyaki" song on her bestselling debut album (known as Elegy in the UK and La Campanella in Japan). Yukawa also performed Sukiyaki various times on the mountainside where her father, Akihisa Yukawa, died in the Japan Airlines Flight 123 crash with Sakamoto.

Selena version

Single by Selena
from the album Selena
Released September 14, 1989
Format CD 7" single
Recorded 1988
Genre Latin
Length 3:11
Label EMI
Writer(s) Hachidai Nakamura
Producer A.B. Quintanilla III
Selena singles chronology
"Amame, Quiereme"

"Sukiyaki" (English: I Shall Walk Looking Up) is a single released by Selena in 1989. It was released as the fourth single from the 1989 self-titled album Selena. The song received much airplay at the time of release. It was a Spanish version of the song (featuring the lyrics written by Janice Marie Johnson translated into Spanish).

It was released as a single in the United States and Japan. It was included in several of Selena's greatest hits packages before and after her death.

Other uses

Rapper Slick Rick sang a verse of the Taste of Honey version of the song on his and Doug E. Fresh's hit 1985 song, "La Di Da Di"; he sang it from the perspective of an older woman who was infatuated with Rick. The rap duo Salt-n-Pepa then sang a similar verse on their own 1985 debut single, "The Show Stopper", which was a response to both "La Di Da Di" and the single to which it served as a B-side, The Show. Snoop Dogg included the verse in his 1993 cover of "La Di Da Di", titled "Lodi Dodi." Slick Rick also sang the verse in a guest appearance on Will Smith's 1999 song "So Fresh." Possibly in homage to Slick Rick, the verse has also been included, in whole or in parts, on other hip-hop and R&B songs, including Bone Thugs-N-Harmony's "Bless Da 40 Oz." and Raphael Saadiq's 1995 hit "Ask Of You." Mary J. Blige's 1997 song "Everything" Wii Music also includes this song in the handbell harmony section. Bob Dylan has also used the song as an instrumental prelude to his concerts circa mid-1980's.


On March 16, 1999, Japan Post issued a stamp commemorating this song.[6] The stamp is listed in the Scott Standard Postage Stamp Catalogue as Japan number 2666 with a face value of 50 yen.


Preceded by
"It's My Party" by Lesley Gore
Billboard Hot 100 number-one single (Kyu Sakamoto version)
June 15, 1963 (3 weeks)
Succeeded by
"Easier Said Than Done" by The Essex
Preceded by
"Being with You" by Smokey Robinson
Billboard Hot Soul Singles number-one single (A Taste of Honey version)
May 9, 1981
Succeeded by
"A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)" by Ray Parker, Jr. & Raydio

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