"Ue o Muite Arukou" by Kyuu Sakamoto – "Sukiyaki" Song

Listening or singing a song is a great way to learn a language. With a melody, it is easier to mimic words and sing along even you don't understand the meaning. I will introduce a great song called, "Ue o Muite Arukou" by Kyuu Sakamoto released in 1961.

First I would like to tell a little bit about the story behind the song.

The title, "Ue o Muite Arukou" translates into, "I look up when I walk". However, it is known as "Sukiyaki" in the United Sates.

The title "Sukiyaki" was chosen because it is easier to pronounce for Americans, and it is a word that they associate with Japan. Sukiyaki is a kind of Japanese stew and has nothing to do with the song.

The song topped the pop charts for three weeks in 1963. It is the only Japanese language song to hit #1 in the US. It sold over 13 million copies internationally.

According to recent news, The British singer, Susan Boyle, will be covering the song as a bonus track for the Japanese version of her third album.

Tragically, Sakamoto was killed when Japan Airlines Flight 123 crashed in 1985. He was 43 years old. All 15 crew and 505 out of 509 passengers died, for a total of 520 deaths and only 4 survivors. It remains the worst single airline disaster in history.

Japanese Lyrics

Ue o muite arukou 上を向いて歩こう
Namida ga koborenai youni 涙がこぼれないように
Omoidasu haru no hi 思い出す 春の日
Hitoribocchi no yoru 一人ぼっちの夜

Ue o mute aurkou 上を向いて歩こう
Nijinda hoshi o kazoete にじんだ星を数えて
Omoidasu natsu no hi 思い出す 夏の日
Hitoribocchi no yoru 一人ぼっちの夜

Shiawase wa kumo no ue ni 幸せは 雲の上に
Shiawase wa sora no ue ni 幸せは 空の上に

Ue o muite arukou 上を向いて歩こう
Namida ga koborenai youni 涙がこぼれないように
Nakinagara aruku 泣きながら 歩く
Hitoribocchi no yoru 一人ぼっちの夜
(Whistling)

Omoidasu aki no hi 思い出す 秋の日
Hitoribocchi no yoru 一人ぼっちの夜

Kanashimi wa hoshi no kage ni 悲しみは星の影に
Kanashimi wa tsuki no kage ni 悲しみは月の影に

Ue o muite arukou 上を向いて歩こう
Namida ga koborenai youni 涙がこぼれないように
Nakinagara aruku 泣きながら 歩く
Hitoribocchi no yoru 一人ぼっちの夜
(Whistling)

Here is the translation of the Japanese lyrics. The English version of "Sukiyaki" recorded by A Taste of Honey doesn't have a literal translation.

I look up when I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Remembering those spring days
But I am all alone tonight

I look up when I walk
Counting the stars with tearful eyes
Remembering those summer days
But I am all alone tonight

Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies above the sky

I look up when I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Though the tears well up as I walk
For tonight I am all alone
(Whistling)

Remembering those autumn days
But I am all alone tonight

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

I look up as I walk
So that the tears won't fall
Though the tears well up as I walk
For tonight I am all alone
(Whistling)

Grammar Notes

 

  • "Muite" is "te-form" of the verb "muku (to face)". The "te-form" is used to connect two or more verbs. In this sentence, the verbs "muku" and "aruku" are connected.

     

  • "Arukou" is volitional form of the verb, "aruku (to walk)".

     

  • "Koborenai" is the negative form of the verb, "koboreru (to fall, to drop)" + "~ youni". "~ youni" means, "in order that ~". "Nai youni" means, "in order not to ~". Here are some examples.

    Gakkou ni okurenai youni hayaku okiru. 学校に遅れないように早く起きる。--- I get up early so that I'm not late for school.
    Kaze o hikanai youni ki o tsuketeiru. かぜをひかないように気をつけている。--- I'm taking care of myself so that I don't catch a cold.

     

  • "Nijinda" is informal perfective ending for the verb, "nijimu (to blot, to blur)". It modifies the noun, "hoshi (star)". It means with teary eyes the stars looked blurry.

     

  • "~ nagara" of "nakinagara" indicates that two actions are taking place simultaneously. Here are some examples.

    Terebi o minagara, asagohan o taberu. テレビを見ながら、朝ごはんを食べる。--- I watch television while I eat breakfast.
    Ongaku o kikinagara, benkyou suru. 音楽を聞きながら、勉強する。--- I listen to music while I study.