Tears Falling in Japan

[updated January 15, 2012]

“Ue o Muite Aruko,” which translates to “I Shall Walk Looking Up,” is a beautiful Japanese song. The title may not ring a bell, but you’ll probably recognize it within seconds of playing any video at random on my YouTube playlist: Ue o Muite Aruko / Sukiyaki.

Kyu Sakamoto

The song was a monster hit in 1963, the only song sung in Japanese ever to make it to the top of the charts in the United States. (The AMC show “Mad Men,” set in the 1960s, featured Sakamoto’s song in one episode.)

The videos in the first half of the playlist surfaced after March 11, 2011 (the date of the Great East Japan Earthquake and tsunami) as tributes to the Japanese people.

In 1961 singer Kyu Sakamoto released Ue o Muite Aruko in Japan. Prior to its debut in the United States, the powers that be decided the song title was a problem — too long in English and too hard for disc jockeys to pronounce in Japanese. So the record company changed the title to “Sukiyaki.” One critic noted: That would be like releasing “Moon River” in Japan under the title “Beef Stew.”

Sakamoto died in the Japan Airlines crash in 1985. He was 43 years old. The lyrics to the song which will be forever linked to his name translate to:

I look up as I walk so my tears won’t fall
Remembering those happy spring days
But tonight I’m all alone

I look up when I walk, counting the stars with tearful eyes
Remembering those happy summer days
But tonight I’m all alone

Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies above the sky

I look up as I walk so my tears won’t fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I’m all alone

Remembering those happy autumn days
But tonight I’m all alone

Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

I look up as I walk so my tears won’t fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I’m all alone

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About Quixotic Chick

I write. I take pictures. I survived cancer.
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5 Responses to Tears Falling in Japan

  1. Tabbie says:

    It’s a wonderful thing you do when you share with us a beautiful song in multiple incarnations. Each version adds fresh nuances to something ageless and sweet.
    It’s a tragedy that Kyu Sakamoto and so many other beloved people died in that terrible crash of 1985, yet I can’t help but wonder sometimes if those who die suddenly and prematurely are not in fact the lucky ones. Certainly those left behind to mourn are the ones who suffer the most, yet that which does not destroy us makes us stronger. Still, even in our strengths we are mortal, and my how time flies.

  2. I just found out that the passengers on board knew the plane was going to crash and some, including Sakamoto, wrote farewell letters to their loved ones. It’s such a beautifully sad song, and many have commented on what a happy person he seemed to be. Another of life’s ironies.

  3. Rayna says:

    I love the video you put up with sepia colouring , almost like Dorothy when she was singing Over the Rainbow?, …now both songs now make me cry!

    This is a great tribute thread with so many great replys in song, as a tribute to Kyu Sakamoto’s wonderful song, I do not know about the industrial complex, but he was a young man who walks through the video, but I could guess?

    For me he is playing the part of a working man who is stuck in a drudgery job, and has now lost his great love on top of it, hence a perfect setting for his song of despair with a smile to the world?

    He is a noble handsome man, and wish I knew him!

    Rayna

  4. atomino8 says:

    Hi, thanks a lot for remembering Sakamoto Kyu san. This helps that he and his optimistic song will not be forgotten. I feel honored that you’d added here my version of his great song. Man shouldn´t forget that this song has still a very special meaning and importance in Japan, a country with incredible suicide rates.
    Greetings from Iceland to Kansas. Merry Christmas to you and your friends and family!

  5. Anonymous says:

    Bring back Ningyoko!!!

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