Kyu Sakamoto（坂本九） will always be known as the original singer behind "Ue wo Muite Arukou"（上を向いて歩こう）aka the Sukiyaki song. However, the song that will probably get a very emotional response from those who were growing up or fully living their lives during the last 20-25 or so years of the Showa Era is this one, "Miagetegoran Yoru no Hoshi wo"(Look Up at the Stars at Night), a ballad that has taken on special meaning since his tragic death in the JAL Flight 123 plane crash in 1985.
Rokusuke Ei（永六輔）, the lyricist behind "Sukiyaki", also served as the writer for this song, while Taku Izumi（いずみたく）was the composer. Izumi was also the man behind Saori Yuki's（由紀さおり） big hit, "Yoake no Scat"（夜明けのスキャット....Evening Scat) later in the 60s. Originally, "Miagetegoran"had been created in 1960 for a musical of the same name, but at that time, it had been sung by a chorus. In May 1963, Sakamoto sang it and had it released as a single which became a huge hit. Thematically, it has a similar DNA to that famed Disney tune "When you Wish Upon a Star"in that by looking up at the heavens at night, some small happiness can be gleaned from the light twinkling off of them. It was said that at the time, when workers and students from the regional areas of Japan had come to Tokyo, this was the song that encouraged them through the tough times. After the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, this song was also played often with some of Sakamoto's other hits.
Sakamoto ended up singing his latest hit at the 1963 Kohaku Utagassen at his 3rd appearance on the year-end special. Six years later, he would appear again on the Kohaku to sing the same tune. The video above shows that performance. Izumi would pick a Japan Record Award for composition.
"Miagetegoran Yoru no Hoshi wo"would become one of those rare songs that would be sung by just about every pop singer over the decades. The one performance that had everyone in Japan reaching for their Kleenex, though, was the one given by enka singer Shinichi Mori（森進一）on August 26 1985, two weeks after the JAL crash that had claimed 520 lives, including that of Sakamoto. He sang it on the popular Fuji-TV music program, "Yoru no Hit Studio Deluxe"（夜のヒットスタジオデラックス...Night Hit Studio Deluxe). I only saw a very brief snippet of that performance but with Mori openly weeping during the song, I can imagine how powerful an effect it had. Apparently, the hosts, guests and the staff were all crying along with Mori.
However, another moving tribute was given in 2003 when Japanese soul singer, Ken Hirai（平井賢）, did a very special duet with Sakamoto, thanks to technology on that year's Kohaku. It was very much reminiscent of Natalie Cole's "Unforgettable"with her late father, Nat King Cole. When Sakamoto appeared with that eternal grin of his, I have to admit that I had a lump in my throat the size of a small Toyota. But I think even going further into this new century, "Miagetegoran Yoru no Hoshi wo" will still have an effect on people no matter how much further we temporally distance ourselves from the 60s.