Ue o muite arukō
is a song you probably have heard a lot of times as covers, usually named "Sukiyaki" in English-speaking countries. It's the one that usually begins as "It's all because of you / I'm feeling sad and blue."
The original song was performed by a Japanese singer named Kyu Sakamoto
and was a hit in his native country in 1961 before also hitting number one in the United States in 1963.
It is in fact the only completely Japanese language song to top the American charts to date.
The song was first loosely translated into English by A Touch of Honey in 1981, and most recently by 4PM in 1995, and by a myriad of artists ranging from Bob Dylan to Snoop Dogg have covered or sampled it in between. There is even a Spanish version by Hispanic diva Selena. Several versions have topped the charts worldwide at various different times.
The translation is very loose: ..."A Taste of Honey's Janice Marie Johnson is quoted 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."
However, the original song and title translate more accurately as: "I shall look up / so my tears don't fall."
The verses of the song go on to describe him doing this through the seasons of the year.
On August 12, 1985, Kyu Sakamoto, the original singer of this haunting song, boarded Japan Airlines Flight 123
. Twelve minutes into the flight, the vertical stabilizer (the tail) literally fell off the aircraft, a Boeing 747 jumbo jet with 519 passengers and 15 cabin crew.
While this is in itself a fatal wound, as a plane without a tail is nearly uncontrollable, the tail also ripped off all four hydraulic systems, meaning the pilots had no surface control systems (flaps, slats, all those flappy things on the wings) of any kind. The massive aircraft began porpoising, flipping up and down randomly, in what is called a Phugoid cycle
, typical behavior for a paralyzed plane in the air.
For the next thirty two minutes of sheer unimaginable terror for everyone on board, the pilots bravely struggled to keep the crippled aircraft in the air using what little control they had, which came in the form of innovatively manipulating the engine thrust. But it was still clearly hopeless. With no tail, no hydraulics and control surfaces at all, the aircraft was simply doomed. It was just a matter of time.
The passengers began writing farewell notes to their loved ones. Kyu Sakamoto wrote a letter to his wife.
Some had no access to writing instruments and cut themselves to write their farewell notes in their own blood.
At six minutes past seven pm, the giant aircraft plunged through dark skies towards a remote, mountainous area near a quiet village named Ueno in Japan.
It slammed into a mountain, flipped over once, and came to rest upside down in flames.
The screams and moans of survivors amidst the wreckage slowly quietened one by one as the hours of the night bled by slowly and help did not come.
Hampered by the remote location and terrain, rescue teams arrived over twelve hours after the crash. They found only four survivors.
Japan Airlines Flight 123 still stands as the worst air disaster involving a single aircraft. 520 passengers perished.
The ensuing investigtion into the cause of the crash revealed a rushed maintenance job by the ground crew. Their failure to follow procedure to Boeing's instructions perfectly had caused the rear bulkhead to weaken and fail in flight, bursting open and tearing the tail off, which also severed all hydraulic lines in the process.
In the aftermath, Japan Air's passengers dropped by a third. Its president resigned, and one of the ground crew maintenance managers committed suicide as an "apology" to the victims and their grieving loved ones. Without admitting liability, JAL paid 780 million yen to the families of the victims of Flight 123.
Among the many grieving families were Catherine Bayly of England and her unborn child. Her husband was a banker named Akihisa Yukawa. One month after the crash, Catherine Bayly gave birth to Diana Yukawa
At the age of 5, Diana mastered the violin, clearly a musical prodigy.
At a memorial service for Flight 123 victims, young Diana performed "Sukiyaki" on her violin in memory of her father whom she never got to know. She also played another piece, Elegy, that was composed by a man whose wife and child perished in the crash.
The performance made her a media sensation for her phenomenal talent and led to her eventual success while still a teenager.
Shortly before the Japanese release of her CD, she returned to the site of the crash with her violin for another performance of Sukiyaki
, as a gift and message to her father.
References:http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyu_Sakamotohttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukiyaki_(song)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diana_Yukawahttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Japan_Airlines_Flight_123http://www.telegraph.co.uk/arts/main.jhtml?xml=/arts/2001/03/03/tlyuk10.xmlhttp://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/fm20001126a1.htmlhttp://www.time.com/time/world/article/0,8599,172586,00.htmlYouTube of the original Sukiyaki song, Ue o muite arukō, by Kyu Sakamoto, 1963.
YouTube of the popular cover, Sukiyaki, by 4 PM, 1995.
"The anniversary happens to fall during the holiday of Obon, when the souls of the dead are said to return home. Crowds of mourners scale this mountain on this day every year to remember the disaster. They all fall silent as Diana Yukawa, 15, picks up her violin. She shuts her eyes and plays a tune by the singer Kyu Sakamoto, who also died in the crash. The song topped charts around the world in 1963 (in the U.S., it was called Sukiyaki) and is popular again in Japan thanks to the plaintive rendition Diana plays in sold-out concerts and on a best-selling debut CD, which is dedicated to her father and other victims of the crash. When she finishes, she walks calmly into a log cabin and bursts into tears." - Time article.