「上を向いて歩こう」or “Sukiyaki” as it is commonly known in the west, was a 1961 release by Kyu Sakamoto. It was released in the United States in 1963 and re-titled “Sukiyaki” as “Ue o muite arukō” evidently was too difficult to pronounce/remember.
Not surprisingly, the song has nothing to do with food at all. The song’s title translates to “I shall walk looking up” and describes the singer’s endless walk alone after losing his love, recalling the happy times they had during various seasons of the year. Sakamoto keeps his head up as he walks to avoid the tears from falling.
The whistling and tune of the song have a somewhat jovial, perhaps optimistic quality to them given the content of the lyrics. The minor four chord in the bridge over the lyrics:
“Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies up above the sky”
however, is a tear-jerker. The song certainly transcended language barriers and became a number one hit in the United States in 1963.