I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Miu Sakamoto -- Tetsudoin (鉄道員)/Child of Snow

Ah yes, this is the daughter of Ryuichi Sakamoto (坂本龍一) and Akiko Yano (矢野顕子), and she’s been recording music since 1997. As one might expect from children of iconic figures, she doesn’t quite fit the shoes of her parents, but I decided to evaluate Miu Sakamoto (坂本美雨) on her own merits and concluded that she’s wonderful artist. Classy, eclectic, and talented singer. (And a massive feline enthusiast.) I’ve been following her releases since discovering her in 2008.

Tetsudoin” (鉄道員…Railroad Man) was her first solo single from May 1999, although she had already released a mini-album and a collaborative single with her father prior to that. I first heard it as its other incarnation, “Child of Snow” (see below), but later encountered it as a theme song of a drama film by Yasuo Furuhata (降旗康男), Poppoya (鉄道員). It’s a quiet poignant piece about an elderly stationmaster Otomatsu Sato (佐藤乙松), played by Ken Takakura (高倉健), who works at a rail station in a dying village in Hokkaido and is haunted by memories of his dead wife and daughter. These memories become stronger as he persistently holds on to his position despite the forthcoming closure of the station, and he imagines his daughter an the different stages of her potential life visiting and talking to him. An earnest tearjerker from what I remember. So when Miu’s song comes over the credits with scenes of a lonely locomotive passing through snow-covered forests of Hokkaido, one is left completely spellbound by the sad beauty witnessed. Ryuichi Sakamoto’s gorgeous melody and Miu’s heavenly vocals compliment one another as pure bliss. Tamio Okuda (奥田民生) of Unicorn fame provided the lyrics.

In September 1999, Miu re-released “Tetsudoin” with English lyrics under the title “Child of Snow”, which became part of her first studio albumDawn Pink”. The individual behind the lyrics here has decided to hide under the cryptic pseudonym jcts. The words are just as poetic as the music and I can definitely relate them to “Poppoya”, but I also keep wondering if they contain some spiritual undertones. It also personally reminds me of the Russian tale “The Snow Maiden”, which was recently adapted into a novel by Eowyn Ivey called “The Snow Child”. This was the first version of the song that I’ve heard and was impressed with Miu’s English pronunciation (not perfect, but good), and it turns out that she has spent a part of her life in New York City and attended high school there.

The single peaked at No.49 on Oricon weeklies despite the success of the film, while "Dawn Pink" fared a bit better at No.28 position.

Just a little note about the reading of the title. 鉄道員 can be read as both “poppoya” and “tetsudoin”. The producers of the film went with the former pronunciation, while those of the song chose the latter, according to the single cover here.



  1. Hello, nikala.

    What a wonderful ballad! I had heard of "Poppoya" during the year it came out since there was so much being hyped about it. And considering Takakura's passing last year, there's even more of a poignancy to the song. However, I had never heard the song.

    Miu is definitely a chip off the old blocks for both Sakamoto and Yano, and she even has a bit of Taeko Ohnuki during her collaborative years with Sakamoto.

    1. It is indeed a lovely song. I love how it builds up emotionally and quiets down. Really fits with the promotional images of the film from the first Youtube sample.

      Around the time when Miu debuted, Sakamoto was collaborating extensively with Miki Nakatani, and the two singers sometimes crossed paths by performing their own interpretations of his compositions. So I usually associated those two together, but never made an Ohnuki comparison. I can see where you're coming from, though, and I am a fan of Ohnuki's as well.

    2. Yes, I was listening to the swelling waves of strings as Miu sings. They made for an interesting contrast with her tender voice.


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