Eastern Elite

During the Ivy heyday in the US, and as VAN Jac was budding in Japan, Kyu Sakamoto‘s “Ue o muite arukō” became one of the best pop songs to come out of the ’60s. It topped the Billboard charts in 1963, the only Japanese song ever to do so. Since the song’s title didn’t lend itself to easy export, the song was marketed worldwide under the name “Sukiyaki,” a dish in Japanese cuisine. That’s kind of like marketing an American song — say, Lou Christie’s “Two Faces Have I,” to pick one from the same year — in foreign markets under the name “Macaroni and Cheese.” I had the pleasure of signing “Sukiyaki” at a karaoke bar during a summer spent in Japan when I was 20. A fond memory for sure, especially as it’s such a great tune.

Sakamoto’s version of “China Nights,” also from ’63, is another gem and a minor follow-up hit for the singer. The song dates to World War II and was used as propaganda for Imperial Japan’s ambitions in China, encouraging young men to enlist with the promise of meeting a lovely Chinese girl. Sakamoto’s version includes updated lyrics, partly in English:

While on YouTube, I came across this surprising find: Two Indonesian brothers from Holland known as The Blue Diamonds, doing “Sukiyaki” in German. The approach is wonderfully laid-back and the guys look great:

Photos of Sakamoto show him to be more Main Street than Ivy (the photo at top, one could argue, is somewhere in between). In 1985 he joined Buddy Holly and the many other pop stars to die tragically in a plane crash.

Before the plane went down, he managed to write a farewell note to his wife. — CC

15 Comments on "Eastern Elite"

  1. Really great. Enjoyed it immensely.

  2. A Former VAN emp | April 17, 2019 at 11:20 pm |

    It’s nostalgic picture. Kyu Sakamoto was a great singer. The plane crash tragedy happened on Aug. 12 1985. 520 passenger died. Kyu Sakamoto was one of them. It was a very sad accident.

  3. Harkness Tower | April 18, 2019 at 1:03 am |

    This site is really becoming educational. Yesterday, We were told that Harrow is a school and that Harrods is a department store. Today, we’re told that sukiyaki is a dish in Japanese cuisine. Perhaps readers would like to suggest other items which need to be explained. I suggest Big Ben,
    Mount Vernon, chop suey, and the Sorbonne for starters.

  4. Prescott Hughes | April 18, 2019 at 1:25 am |

    I get your point, but Mt. Vernon?
    The average American today doesn’t even know the location, let alone the significance of Pearl Harbor, Los Alamos, or Independence Hall.

  5. Thomas Mukherjee | April 18, 2019 at 10:17 am |

    The fact that the Ivy Style archive can be dipped into like this, and yet produce something worthy of being read , is testimony to its value.

  6. Carmelo Pugliatti | April 18, 2019 at 10:42 am |

    What is called “Main Street” was merely the 60s style worldwide.
    A clean suit,often single breasted three or two buttons, with slender lapels,darted,slightly padded or with natural shoulders,and with a gently waist suppression.
    Moreover I am watching a lot of American TV show of late 50-early 60s on youtube, and almost all the suits are in this “international” style.

  7. Hardbopper | April 18, 2019 at 1:22 pm |

    Thanks for this. A remarkably cheerful tune, very danceable medium two-beat, professionally orchestrated with strings, electric bass, drums, 3 bones, xy, and a whistling vocalist. I wonder where it was recorded? (I’d bet USA). I’ve played an arrangement of that tune many times, but had no idea of it’s history. Thanks, again.

  8. Hardbopper | April 18, 2019 at 1:31 pm |

    I was under the assumption that this “Sukiyaki” was an obscure 1940s, WWII era dance-band number.

  9. Hardbopper | April 18, 2019 at 1:51 pm |

    OK, I read paragraph three again. That explains it. I need an edit function!

  10. stanleyshall | April 19, 2019 at 7:11 am |

    @ Harkness Tower aka “Boop McSnoot” and “Berckley Breathes”, didn’t woofboxer tell you that the feud between Ivy Style and Talk Ivy ended in 2015? What an angry little jealous man you are. Go back to your pathetic site where the only posters are the 3 moderators and a guy who looks like he’s homeless with hair down to his shoulders and a scruffy beard posing for photos in a field jacket and jeans calling it “prep”.


  11. Henry Contestwinner | May 6, 2019 at 5:11 pm |

    Hardbopper, the record label in the video says it was recorded in Japan.

  12. Those brothes are my favorite Indonesians!

    Well, after Sigit:


    And what an interesting find for me this is:


  13. whiskeydent | April 8, 2021 at 2:44 pm |

    Perhaps I’m mistaken, but I thought Holly’s plane crashed a little earlier than 1985.

  14. Sakamoto’s crash was ’85. He “joined” Holly and the many other rock stars who’ve died in a plane crash.

  15. whiskeydent | April 8, 2021 at 10:22 pm |

    Sorry, I got it the wrong way for some infernal reason.

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