English songs are usually popular and covered by artists around the world, including Japanese artists. It is rare for the opposite to happen. However, these are some of the Japanese songs which have been covered in English!
Ue wo Muite Arukou by Kyu Sakamato is one of the best-selling singles of all time. To date, it is the only Japanese song that has reached the Billboards Hot 100 charts in the United States. Ue wo Muite Arukou carries the meaning of “I Look Up As I Walk”. You may wonder why you have never heard of this song despite its popularity. This is because in English-speaking countries, this song is better known as Sukiyaki. Now, does that ring a bell?
Sukiyaki means Japanese hot pot which has nothing to do with the lyrics. The original lyrics actually tell the story of a man who looks up and whistles while walking in order to not let his tears fall. This song was covered by Jewel Akens with the title “My First Lonely Night” in 1966 and a more popular version, “Sukiyaki” by A Taste of Honey in 1980. It was also covered in many other languages, such as Spanish by Selena, and German by Blue Diamonds.
The English version of the Hot Limit song which was sung by John Desire, gained popularity due to the poor English pronunciation which leads to funny, misheard lyrics. The popular misheard lyrics version is the “We Drink Ritalin” version which became a meme on the Internet.
Tsubasa wo Kudasai means “please give me wings”. It is a well-known folk song in Japan. Many Japanese artists have covered this song including Babymetal and Hideaki Tokunaga. The song was also featured in several anime such as K-On and Rebuild of Evangelion. The song is also covered in English by Susan Boyle who changed the title to Wings to Fly.
There are certainly many gems among Japanese songs which are unheard of internationally. English versions released by international artists allow the songs to reach a more English-speaking audience. They also provide a different feel or interpretation from the original version.