“Sukiyaki,” the cover version by “A Taste of Honey” reached number three on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 chart. It also went to number one on Billboard’s Adult Contemporary chart and Soul chart.
While driving around Los Angeles, Janice–Marie Johnson of A Taste of Honey had heard Linda Ronstadt‘s hit remake of Smokey Robinson & the Miracles‘ “Ooo Baby Baby” play on the car radio with Johnson resultantly concluding that A Taste of Honey should remake a classic hit. Johnson focused on Kyu Sakamoto’s “Sukiyaki” which she first learned in the original Japanese. According to The Billboard Book of Number One R&B Hits by Fred Bronson, Johnson learned that the Japanese lyrics when translated to English had three possible interpretations — as the mindset of a man facing execution; as someone trying to be optimistic despite life’s trials; or as the story of an ended love affair, with Johnson quoted as saying: “Me being the hopeless romantic that I am, I decided to write about a love gone bad.” Johnson was given permission by the original song’s copyright holders to write the English-language lyrics on the understanding that she receive neither official credit nor remuneration. This version used a koto played by Hazel Payne.
A Taste of Honey’s version of “Sukiyaki” first appeared on their 1980 album, Twice As Sweet. It was released as a single in 1981. It is the group’s single of greatest U.S. chart longevity at 24 weeks, surpassing their earlier hit, “Boogie Oogie Oogie” by one week.