Quiet Mumblings

Sunday, September 10, 2006


I'm clearly in with the Japanese theme this week, although I promise that this blog is not always so specific in its subject matter... The quote above is from a song called "I love you" by a Japanese singer called Yutaka Ozaki. I first heard it when I was studying in Japan, in the form of a live version sung by the incredibly popular singer Utada Hikaru. It stuck with me mainly because it was the first time I ever actually understood the lyrics of a song - "only now do I not want to listen to a sad song". Initially, like many Westerners I attributed the song purely to Utada - she's sang the song plenty of times and kind of taken ownership of it, although I'm sure not intentionally.

You see, Yutaka Ozaki is a Japanese version of the River Phoenix legend. A handsome and rebellious pop/rock star, who lived fast and died young - in Ozaki's case at the young age of 26 of a pulmonary edema "after being found drunk and naked in a Tokyo alleyway" (Nippop). Of course, like all who die tragically and far too young, he has been elevated to the status of legend, and Utada Hikaru's version of one of his most popular songs is a tribute.

Japan, like any country, has its fair share of tragic celebrity deaths. However if Yutaka Ozaki is Japan's River Phoenix then Sakamoto Kyu is its John Lennon. Most famous for his song Sukiyaki (or in Japanese "Ue o muite arukou"), Sakamoto died in Japan's only major air accident, and the worst single air crash in history. To make the story even more tragically romantic, the flight took a while to crash, and he had time to write a farewell note to his wife. Apart from the massive and terrible loss of life and the death of a Japanese superstar the accident is also famous for one other remarkable footnote:

. There were four female survivors who were seated together towards the rear of the plane: Yumi Ochiai, an off-duty JAL flight attendant, age 25, who was jammed between a number of seats; Hiroko Yoshizaki, a 34-year-old woman and her 8-year-old daughter Mikiko, who were trapped in an intact section of the fuselage; and a 12-year-old girl, Keiko Kawakami, who was found sitting on a branch up in a tree.

Keiko Kawakami will be 33 now...


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