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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Ue wo muite arukou - and the decade when we were true cosmopolitans

Earlier this year, I wrote an article on how, back in the 1960s, Britain was much more open to European cultural influences than it is today. But Britain- and the US- wasn't just more open to European culture, but the culture of other nations too.

I was reminded of just how cosmopolitan the world was before the turbo-globalists took over while listening to the excellent Sound of the 60s show on Radio 2 earlier today.

Can you imagine a song, sung entirely in Japanese, getting to the top of the US pop charts today- and staying there for three weeks? No, me neither.

The song in question 'Ue wo muite arukou' or 'Sukiyaki' as it was marketed in the US and Britain-became a huge international hit (it reached number six in Britain) and spawned several cover versions. None were quite as good as the original, which you can see being sung above by Kyu Sakamoto.

The sad truth is that the era of turbo-globalisation hasn't led to a greater cross-fertilisation of cultures as its supporters claimed it would - but the overwhelming dominance of an introspective, bland and dumbed-down transatlantic global culture that isn't a patch on the true, life-enhancing cosmopolitanism we had in the 1960s.

Take it away, Kyu.


Tommy Schmitz said...

Okay Neil, now you're makin' me cry.

Thank you. :)

This was a favorite song of mine growing up in a lily-white, blue-collar, Roman Catholic, German-Irish-Italian neighborhood in Cincinnati, Ohio.

During the 1990s I lived, worked and raised a family in Tokyo, Japan.

The family is now separated by divorce, but, you're right, the cosmopolitan blending of cultures needs to go on with something other than trade and return on equity as the driving forces.

For what it's worth, I've contributed my two cents in a recent novel called "Tokyo Twins", available on pdf here, and soon coming out in hard copy:

The first sentence?

"This is a story about two Japanese girls whose names are Katie and Susan O'Brien."

The pdf in English is, and will remain, free.

This song title?:

Ue wo muite arukou
"Facing life, we can probably walk on."

True for Japanese in the early 60s.

True for us all today.

- Tommy Schmitz, Des Moines, Iowa

Nick said...

Quite so. A pity, that.

Neil Clark said...

tommy: many thanks. so pleased the song brought back some happy memories. It's a wonderful, wonderful song. I'm looking forward to reading your book. All the very best of luck with it.