Sunday, 23 September 2012

Ue o Muite Arukou

To the non-Japanese reader, this song may be familiar as "Sukiyaki," the Kyu Sakamoto smash of 1963, which I remember hearing and loving as a child. When I was teaching in Japan, I had four different groups of co-workers to socialize with, being based in city hall, but mostly rotating between three junior high schools. This meant that every social event marking a key date in the calendar (New Year, end of school year, etc.) found me receiving four different invitations to boozy nights on the town, inevitably culminating in late night karaoke sessions. I typically was called upon to do "The Tennessee Waltz" and "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," which I always happily did, but I also had managed to learn this one by virtue of having a copy of the 45 back home, and I would insist on singing it if they would let me, which they always did.

Linda Heck & The Train Wreck played this a few times live, as a country number, which always baffled and impressed people. The lyrics are simple, but very moving, if you speak Japanese, that is. (The lyrics of the Taste of Honey version in English bear no relation, just for the record.) The title translates as "I'll Walk Looking Up," and the song makes clear that this is so the singer's tears won't spill from his eyes, as he walks alone at night remembering days in the springs and summers of his life, the details of which we are left wondering about - but it must have been heavy. Happiness is beyond the sky, beyond the clouds. Sadness lies in the shadows of the stars, of the moon. A literal translation would make it sound lame, which it isn't, so I'll refrain.

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