Wednesday, May 25, 2011


English language music has for decades had great popular success in Japan. Sadly, the relationship has not been reciprocal. Only one Japanese language song, Ue o Muite Arukou, better known by the wildly inappropriate but considerably more pronounceable title "Sukiyaki," has ever charted in the Billboard top 10, back in 1963 with the original version by Kyu Sakamoto, and again in 1981 with A Taste of Honey's cover...and again in 1995 with 4 P.M.'s cover. Sakamoto's follow-up single, China Nights, hit 58 on the Billboard Top 100, and no Japanese language song since then has broken into the top 100.

This is unfortunate. As the second most populous first-world country, Japan has a had an enormous pool of talent from which a great deal of superb music has emerged, and while it's enjoyed some measure of success elsewhere in Asia, Americans have missed out almost entirely.

I don't remember quite how it happened, but back in 2000 or so, shortly after I first began studying Japanese, I became vaguely aware that I was missing out on something. Somehow or other I got ahold of an MP3 of a Japanese song that I liked, and started to wonder what else was out there.

But I couldn't get to it. At the time it was pretty much a given that Amazon or some other online retailer would have sample clips from just about any English album you might want to buy, but Japanese retailers lagged years behind on implementing this feature, and I wasn't about to send $25 plus overseas shipping charges for an album I might or might not like. I was able to find a few songs I liked on Napster before it got shut down, but it never really caught on in Japan, so the pickings were slim.

All that has changed in the last couple of years with YouTube. There are videos for just about every hit single of the last fifty years, and quite a few of the more obscure album tracks. At long last, I have easy access to two generations worth of Japanese popular music.

For the most part it ranges from terrible to mediocre, just like American music. Sturgeon's Law knows no borders. Which is where this blog comes in. I'll be sifting through the chaff so you don't have to.

Now, I gather that a lot of people find not being able to understand a song's lyric to be a barrier to enjoying it. Can't say I get this myself, but I'll take a crack at translating the lyrics. Poetic Japanese doesn't always translate well, as it tends to be a bit vague about things that pretty much need to be specified in English, but I'll do my best. Double your money back if you're not 100% satisfied.


  1. Thanks for your translated, I like the Japanese music

    I have a song what I can't found the title or lyrics, at begins say "saa no sado do itsu,... nonde nonde,... sochi arigatou"

    Perhaps you know it, well take care.

    Thanks again :)