March 24, 2012

Saturday night sukiyaki

Filed under: Japan — theresaurus @ 12:59 pm

From Jane and Michael Stern’s American Gourmet:

“Probably the most unlikely number one hit song in 1960s America was ‘Sukiyaki’ by Kyu Sakamoto. Originally a Japanese tune titled ‘Ue O Meite Aruko’ (I Look Up When I Walk), it was recorded as an instrumental in England by jazz man Kenny Ball. But because his record company figured nobody could pronounce the title, they renamed it with the single Japanese word everybody did know: sukiyakiNewsweek commented that this would be like releasing ‘Moon River’ in Japan with the title ‘Beef Stew,’ but the song hit number ten on the UK chart in January 1963; and when, as a lark, American disk jockey Rick Osbourne of KORD in Pasco, Washington, tracked down Kyu Sakamoto’s original vocal version and played it on the air, an amazing thing happened: His audience loved it. Audiences all across America loved it! ‘Sukiyaki,’ sung entirely in Japanese became the first foreign language song to hit number one on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart (not counting 1958’s one-word hit, ‘Tequila’). It stayed number one for three weeks in June. This was only months before the opening of the World’s Fair in New York, at which tourists could enjoy the pleasure of real sukiyaki eaten Japanese-style, sitting cross-legged on straw mats at low tables.”



  1. Thanks for posting about Kyu Sakamoto and “Sukiyaki.” Interesting to know about the background of this song and how it became popular outside of Japan. When it became popular I never dreamed I would end up in Japan with a Japanese husband, though we are now in the US.

    I always enjoy your blog and your comments on MIJ and AFWJ.


    Comment by Betty Ogawa — March 24, 2012 @ 8:14 pm

    • Thank you, Betty! I just love the Sukiyaki song, never get tired of it.

      Comment by theresaurus — March 25, 2012 @ 11:32 am

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