A) A Japanese stew-like dish with highly variable ingredients, including beef, onions, leeks, bok choi, etc. Pronounced "s'kee-ya-kee."

B) A Japanese song (in Japanese, no less) that made it onto the pop charts in the USA. In fact, on 15 June 1963, it hit #1 (over "It's My Party"). It was recorded by Kyu Sakamoto. The title was picked because it sounded good. The real name of the song (hm, I feel a Carrollian moment coming on) is "Ue o Muite Aruko" (I Look Up When I Walk). It does have a beautiful melody.

By request, I have written up the lyrics.

Sukiyaki lyrics, in Japanese and two English versions.

In Japanese:

ue o muite arukou
namida ga kobore naiyouni
omoidasu harunohi
hitoribotchi no yoru

ue o muite arukou
nijinda hosi o kazoete
omoidasu natsunohi
hitoribotchi no yoru

shiawase wa kumo no ueni
shiawase wa sora no ueni

ue o muite arukou
namida ga kobore naiyouni
nakinagara aruku
hitoribotchi no yoru

omoidasu akinohi
hitoribotchi no yoru
kanashimi wa hosino kageni
kanashimi wa tsukino kageni

ue o muite arukou
namida ga kobore naiyouni
nakinagara aruku
hitoribotchi no yoru


In English--semi-literal translation:

I look up when I walk so the tears won't fall
Remembering those happy spring days
But tonight I'm all alone
I look up when I walk, counting the stars with tearful eyes

Remembering those happy summer days
But tonight I'm all alone
Happiness lies beyond the clouds
Happiness lies above the sky

I look up when I walk so the tears won't fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I'm all alone

Remembering those happy autumn days
But tonight I'm all alone
Sadness hides in the shadow of the stars
Sadness lurks in the shadow of the moon

I look up when I walk so the tears won't fall
Though my heart is filled with sorrow
For tonight I'm all alone


In English--recorded version by A Taste of Honey (1980s) and 4PM (1990s):

It’s all because of you
I’m feelin’ sad and blue
You went away now my life is just a rainy day
And I love you so, how much you’d never know
You've gone away and left me lonely

Untouchable memories seem to keep haunting me
Now love so true that once turned my gray skies blue
But you disappeared
Now my eyes are filled with tears
And I’m wishing you were here with me

Ahh--Sought with love all my thoughts of you
Now that you’re gone I just don't know what to do
If only you were here
You wash away my tears

The sun will shine once again, you’ll be mine oh mine
but in reality, you and I will never be
'Cause you took your love away from me

Oh girl, I don't know what I did to make you leave
But I know that since you’d been gone
there's such an emptiness inside of me
I wish you'd come back to me

Ahh, babe, you took your love away from me

Sukiyaki is, as esteemed noder Hectibus describes in mouthwatering detail above, a delicious beef dish that is both sweet and savoury in all the right ways. By Japanese standards, Sukiyaki is a fairly modern traditional dish, having come into being over the last several hundred years. Although sukiyaki is considered to be "nabe-ryouri", that is, a Japanese hot-pot dish, it was originally cooked in a completely different fashion -- outside, on the back of a plow or spade.

Etymology of sukiyaki (Contains Unicode.)

The word sukiyaki is often written in hiragana as すき焼き or すきやき, but the correct kanji usage is 鋤焼き.

鋤 - plow or spade
焼き - cook, fry, grill, roast

Before the Meiji Restoration, common buddhist principles led to a general shunning of the cooking and eating of meat. Cooking meat inside the house was unthinkable, as the smoke and smell would desecrate the butsudan, a small buddhist altar which worships family ancestors. (Etchu, 2002)

Some people think that the term sukiyaki, to cook over a spade, already existed as a method of frying fish, which being rather smelly and smoky, is best cooked outside. It follows that when eating of beef was first introduced by Europeans in the late 1500s, the meaning gradually changed to refer to the eating of beef. Others believe that the term was first invented after eating beef became somewhat common, and has always referred to beef.

Another theory is that the dish may have originally got its name due to the thin slices of meat (suki-mi 剥身) involved. (Webster) Due to the prevalent cooking method, the character usage was corrupted to the above. (Koujien)

The etymology suggests the change in style of this dish. As the verb "yaki" implies, sukiyaki was originally fried on a metal surface, thus considered a teppan-yaki dish. As beef, along with other western conventions, gradually became acceptable in Japan, sukiyaki moved from the fields back into people's homes. This led to the nabe dish which is modern sukiyaki.

Differences between American and Japanese sukiyaki

  • American sukiyaki tends to use leaner steak cuts, whereas Japanese sukiyaki often uses fattier, marbled wagyu.
  • The traditional dipping sauce in Japan is a lightly beaten raw egg, which is not so popular in America. Some American restaurants use a peanut sauce, which is actually quite similar in proteiny creaminess.
  • In Japan, the "firm" tofu is actually momendoufu ("cotton tofu"). It is much softer than "firm" tofu found in American supermarkets. Yakidoufu (broiled tofu) is also commonly used in sukiyaki.

Sukiyaki is also great served on top of a bowl of rice as a donburi dish. The distinction between sukiyaki-don and gyuu-don (beef bowl) is a bit blurry.

SOURCES:

  • Kojien 5th Ed. Electronic version.
  • Free Light Software. Japanese Dictionary of History and Traditions. Available online at http://www.hikyaku.com/dico/histxtg.html
  • Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Online edition. Available at http://www.m-w.com
  • ETCHU Tetsuya. 2002. European Influence on the "Culture of Food" in Nagasaki. Available online at http://www.uwosh.edu/home_pages/faculty_staff/earns/etchu.html

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