Way back when, I had a half year course in Japanese. We learned basic conversation, the Hiragana alphabet, a bit of Katakana and snippets of Kanji (the adoptive Chinese characters). I don’t have much use for the language anymore except for one thing — singing.
When my granddaughters spend the night, I always sing. Oh Shenendoah (see August 14,2011) and other fraternity songs. And I inevitably launch into the famous Kyu Sakamoto song – Sukiyaki (Ue o muite Arukō). I remember that tune vividly from my junior prom in 1963. So when my granddaughters are closing their eyes, I’m warbling to them in Japanese.
The song title means “I look up as I walk.” It is about a man who walks whistling – while looking up. So his tears will not fall. Sukiyaki was released in Japan in 1961 and the U.S. in 1963. Kyu Sakimoto (1941-1985) was an instant phenom. For nearly a year (1963-4) Kyu was on a world tour — performing and appearing on television (including in the U.S.). On August 12, 1985, Kyu Sakamoto sadly died in the crash of Japan Airlines Flight 123 — the deadliest single aircraft accident in history. He left behind his wife and two young daughters.
If you’d like to hear Kyu Sakamoto’s beautiful song – and visualize me singing it – click on http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C35DrtPlUbc