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Akira Ifukube

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Akira Ifukube
伊福部 昭
Ifukube in 1954
Ifukube in 1954
Background information
Born(1914-05-31)31 May 1914[1]
Kushiro, Hokkaido, Empire of Japan[1]
Died8 February 2006(2006-02-08) (aged 91)
Tokyo, Japan
GenresClassical, film scores
Occupation(s)Musician, Composer, educator
Years active1935-2006
Spouse(s)Ai Yuzaki (dancer)

Akira Ifukube (伊福部 昭, Ifukube Akira, 31 May 1914 – 8 February 2006) was a Japanese composer. He is best known for composing several entries in the Godzilla franchise as well as developing the titular monster's roar.


Early years in Hokkaido[edit]

Akira Ifukube was born on 31 May 1914, in Kushiro,[1] Japan as the third son of a police officer Toshimitsu Ifukube. The origins of this family can be traced back to at least the 7th century with the birth of Ifukibe-no-Tokotarihime. He was strongly influenced by the Ainu music as he spent his childhood (from age of 9 to 12) in Otofuke near Obihiro, where was with a mixed population of Ainu and Japanese. His first encounter with classical music occurred when attending secondary school in Sapporo city. Ifukube decided to become a composer at the age of 14 after hearing a radio performance of Igor Stravinsky's The Rite of Spring, and also cited the music of Manuel de Falla as a major influence.

Ifukube studied forestry at Hokkaido Imperial University in Sapporo and composed in his spare time, which prefigured a line of self-taught Japanese composers. His first piece was the piano solo, Piano Suite (later the title was changed to Japan Suite, arranged for orchestra), dedicated to George Copeland who was living in Spain. Atsushi Miura, Ifukube's friend at the university, sent a letter to Copeland. Copeland replied, "It is wonderful that you listen my disc in spite of you living in Japan, the opposite side of the earth. I imagine you may compose music. Send me some piano pieces." Then Miura, who was not a composer, presented Ifukube and this piece to Copeland. Copeland promised to interpret it, but the correspondence was unfortunately stopped because of the Spanish Civil War. Ifukube's big break came in 1935, when his first orchestral piece Japanese Rhapsody won the first prize in an competition for Japanese composers promoted by Alexander Tcherepnin. The judges of that contest—Albert Roussel, Jacques Ibert, Arthur Honegger, Alexandre Tansman, Tibor Harsányi, Pierre-Octave Ferroud, and Henri Gil-Marchex were unanimous in their selection of Ifukube as the winner.[2] Ifukube studied modern Western composition while Tcherepnin was visiting Japan, and his Piano Suite received an honourable mention at the I.C.S.M. festival in Venice in 1938. Japanese Rhapsody was performed in Europe on a number of occasions in the late 1930s.

On completing University, he worked as a forestry officer and lumber processor in Akkeshi, and towards the end of the Second World War was appointed by the Imperial Japanese Army to study the elasticity and vibratory strength of wood. He suffered radiation exposure after carrying out x-rays without protection, a consequence of the wartime lead shortage. Thus, he had to abandon forestry work and became a professional composer and teacher. Ifukube spent some time in hospital due to the radiation exposure, and was startled one day to hear one of his own marches being played over the radio when General Douglas MacArthur arrived to formalize the Japanese surrender.[citation needed]

From 1946 to 2006 in Tokyo[edit]

Ifukube in 1956

He taught at the Tokyo University of the Arts (formerly Tokyo Music School), during which period he composed his first film score for Snow Trail, released in 1947. Over the next fifty years, he would compose more than 250 film scores, the high point of which was his 1954 music for Ishirō Honda's Toho movie, Godzilla. Ifukube also created Godzilla's trademark roar – produced by rubbing a resin-covered leather glove along the loosened strings of a double bass – and its footsteps, created by striking an amplifier box.

Despite his financial success as a film composer, Ifukube's first love had always been his general classical work as a composer. In fact his compositions for the two genres cross-fertilized each other. For example, he was to recycle his 1953 music for the ballet Shaka, about how the young Siddhartha Gautama eventually became the Buddha, for Kenji Misumi's 1961 film Buddha. Then in 1988 he reworked the film music to create his three-movement symphonic ode Gotama the Buddha. Meanwhile, he had returned to teaching at the Tokyo College of Music, becoming president of the college the following year, and in 1987 retired to become head of the College's ethnomusicology department.

He trained younger generation composers such as Toshiro Mayuzumi, Yasushi Akutagawa, Akio Yashiro, Teizo Matsumura, Sei Ikeno, Minoru Miki, Maki Ishii, Riichirō Manabe, Hajime Okumura, Reiko Arima, Taichiro Kosugi, Kaoru Wada, Motoji Ishimaru, Shigeyuki Imai, and Satoshi Imai. See: List of music students by teacher: G to J#Akira Ifukube. He also published Orchestration, a 1,000-page book on theory, widely used among Japanese composers.

He died in Tokyo at Meguro-ku Hospital of multiple organ dysfunction on 8 February in 2006, at the age of 91 and buried at the Ube shrine in Tottori.


Ifukube in 1960

The Japanese government awarded Ifukube the Order of Culture. Subsequently, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class.[3]


On May 31, 2021, Google celebrated the 107th anniversary of his birth with a Google Doodle.[4]



  • Japanese Rhapsody (1935)
  • Triptyque Aborigène: trois tableaux pour orchestre de chambre (1937); dedicated to Alexander Tcherepnin.
  • Ballet symphonique après Etenraku (1940)
  • Symphony Concertante for piano and orchestra (1941)
  • Ballata Sinfonica (1943)
  • Overture to the Nation of Philippines (1944)
  • Arctic Forest (1944)
  • Rapsodia Concertante for violin and orchestra (Violin Concerto No. 1) (1948, revised 1951/59/71)
  • Salome, ballet (1948, score revised and expanded 1987 for Suite)[5] based on Oscar Wilde's play
  • Fire of Prometheus, ballet (1950)
  • Drumming of Japan, ballet (1951, revised 1984)
  • Sinfonia Tapkaara (1954, revised 1979)
  • Ritmica Ostinata for piano and orchestra (1961, revised 1971)
  • Ronde in Burlesque for wind orchestra (1972, arranged to orchestra in 1983)[5]
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 (1978)
  • Lauda concertata for marimba and orchestra (1979)
  • Eglogue symphonique for 20-strings koto and orchestra (1982)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 1 (1983); arrangement from the film scores
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 2 (1983); arrangement from the film scores
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 3 (1983); arrangement from the film scores
  • Gotama the Buddha, symphonic ode for mixed chorus and orchestra (1989)
  • Japanese Suite for orchestra (1991); arrangement from the piano suite
  • Japanese Suite for string orchestra (1998); arrangement from the piano suite


  • Piano Suite (1933)
  • Toka: Cantilena ballabile sul mode antico de Giappone, for guitar (1967)
  • Kugoka for guitar (1969)
  • Toccata for guitar (1970)
  • Fantasia for baroque lute (1980)
  • Sonata for violin and piano (1985)
  • Ballata sinfonica for duo-treble and bass 25-stringed koto (2001)


  • Ancient Minstrelsies of Gilyak Tribes, for soprano and piano (1946)
  • Three Lullabies among the Native Tribes on the Island of Sakhalin, for soprano and piano (1949)
  • Eclogues after Epos among Aino Races, for soprano and timpani (1950)
  • A Shanty of the Shiretoko Peninsula (1961)
  • The Sea of Okhotsk for soprano, bassoon, piano (or harp) and double bass (1988)
  • Tomo no oto for traditional ensemble and orchestra (1990)
  • Lake Kimtaankamuito (Lake Mashū) (摩周湖, Mashū-ko) for soprano, viola and harp or piano (1992)
  • Five Poems after Inaba Manyo (1994); text by Ōtomo no Yakamochi
  • La Fontaine sacrée for soprano, viola, bassoon and harp (1964, 2000); arrangement by the composer from the 1964 film score Mothra vs. Godzilla
  • Ao Saghi (Grey heron) for soprano, oboe, double bass and piano (2000); text by Genzō Sarashina

Film scores[edit]

Year Title Director(s) Notes
1947 Snow Trail Senkichi Taniguchi
Kôfuku eno shôtai Yasuki Chiba
Meitantei Hiroshi kun Hideo Sekigawa Short film
1948 Daini no jinsei Hideo Sekigawa
Kuro-uma no danshichi Hiroshi Inagaki
Woman In the Typhoon Belt
The President and a Female Clerk
1949 The Quiet Duel Akira Kurosawa
Late Night Confession
Jakoman and Tetsu
Rainbow Man
Detective Hiroshi
1950 City of the Spider
White Beast
Listen to the Student's Memoirs Senbotsu Japan,
Voice of Wadatsumi
Flowers of Seven Colors
1951 Beyond Love and Hate
Clothes of Deception
Free School
The Tale of Genji Kōzaburō Yoshimura
1952 Children of Hiroshima Kaneto Shindo
Swift Current
Tenryu River
1953 A Thousand Paper Cranes
Anatahan Josef von Sternberg
White Fish
Crab Ship
Hiroshima Hideo Sekigawa
1954 Sakuma Dam Part One
Cape Ashizuri
Muddy Youth
Godzilla Ishiro Honda
1955 Ningen Gyorai Kaiten Shūe Matsubayashi
Women of Ginza
The Maid's Kid Tomotaka Tasaka
Sakuma Dam Part Two:
Transformation of the Great Tenryu
Three Faces
Kabuki Jūhachiban Narukami:
Beauty and the Sea Dragon
1956 The Burmese Harp Kon Ichikawa
Wandering Shore
Sound of the Fog
The Good Natured Couple
Godzilla, King of the Monsters! Terry O. Morse
Ishirō Honda
American version
Rodan Ishirō Honda
1957 Osaka Story
Advancing Vitamin B1
Yagyu Secret Scrolls
Sakuma Dam Part Three
Hateful Things
Who Committed Murder
The Final Escape
Bastards of the Sea
The Ground
The Mysterians Ishirō Honda
1958 Yagyu Secret Scrolls: Ninjitsu
Sorrow Is Only for Women
A Bridge for Us Alone
Ice Wall
Varan the Unbelievable Ishirō Honda Japanese version
1959 Boss of the Underworld
Whistling in the Kotan
Woman and the Pirates
Tear Down Those Walls
The Three Treasures Hiroshi Inagaki
Battle in Outer Space Ishirō Honda
1960 Baluchaung Project
Shinran Continued
Castle of Flames
1961 The Story of Osaka Castle Hiroshi Inagaki
Musashi Miyamoto
Challenge in the Snow
Different Sons
1962 The Tale of Zatoichi Kenji Misumi
The Whale God
King Kong vs. Godzilla Ishirō Honda Japanese version[a]
The Great Wall
Chūshingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki Hiroshi Inagaki
1963 The New Tale of Zatoichi Tokuzō Tanaka
The Little Prince and the Eight-Headed Dragon Yūgo Serikawa
13 Assassins Eiichi Kudo
Zatoichi the Fugitive Tokuzō Tanaka
Zatoichi on the Road Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Atragon Ishirō Honda
1964 Teikoku Bank Incident:
Prisoner of Death Row
Mothra vs. Godzilla Ishirō Honda
Dogora Ishirō Honda
Fight, Zatoichi, Fight Kenji Misumi
The Last Woman of Shang
The Woman Running on the Shore
Suruga yukyoden
Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster Ishirō Honda
1965 Tokugawa Ieyasu
Zatoichi's Revenge Akira Inoue
Japanese Archipelago
Frankenstein vs. Baragon Ishirō Honda
Invasion of Astro-Monster Ishirō Honda
Zatoichi and the Chess Expert Kenji Misumi
1966 Daimajin Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Adventure in Kigan Castle
Zatoichi's Vengeance Tokuzō Tanaka
The War of the Gargantuas Ishirō Honda
Return of Daimajin Kenji Misumi
Thirteen Thousand Suspects
Daimajin Strikes Again Kazuo Mori
1967 King Kong Escapes Ishirō Honda
Eleven Samurai Eiichi Kudo
Zatoichi Challenged Kenji Misumi
1968 The Snow Woman Tokuzō Tanaka
Destroy All Monsters Ishirō Honda
Young Challengers Yasuki Chiba
1969 Dawn of the Skyscraper
The Devil's Temple
Latitude Zero Ishirō Honda
1970 Zatoichi Meets Yojimbo Kihachi Okamoto
Space Amoeba Ishirō Honda
Will to Conquer
1972 Godzilla vs. Gigan Jun Fukuda Stock music
1973 Zatoichi's Conspiracy
The Human Revolution
1974 The Last Samurai Kenji Misumi
Sandakan No. 8
1975 Terror of Mechagodzilla Ishirō Honda
The Door Has Opened
1976 The Great Elm
1977 The Sea, the Wings and Tomorrow
1978 Ogin-sama Kei Kumai
1991 Dozoku no ranjo
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Kazuki Ōmori
1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra Takao Okawara
1993 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II Takao Okawara
Kushiro Marshland
1994 Godzilla vs. Spacegodzilla Kensho Yamashita Stock music
1995 Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Takao Okawara
1999 Godzilla 2000 Takao Okawara Stock music
2000 Godzilla vs. Megaguirus Masaaki Tezuka Stock music
2001 Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah:
Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Shusuke Kaneko Stock music
2004 Godzilla: Final Wars Ryuhei Kitamura Stock music
2007 Tetsujin 28-gô: Hakuchû no zangetsu Yasuhiro Imagawa Posthumous score
2016 Shin Godzilla Hideaki Anno
Shinji Higuchi
Stock music
2019 Godzilla King of the Monsters Bear McCreary
Michael Dougherty
Original themes
2023 Godzilla Minus One Takashi Yamazaki Original themes

Awards and honours[edit]

Ifukube obtained the Medal with Purple Ribbon in 1980, the 3rd class Order of the Sacred Treasure in 1987, and was honoured as a Person of Cultural Merit in 2003.[7]


  1. ^ The 1963 American version of the film replaced Ifukube's music with public domain stock music. However, the Faro natives chant music was retained for the American version.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Ryfle 1998, p. 48.
  2. ^ liner notes: Naxos 8.555071 (Morihide Katayarna)
  3. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French)
  4. ^ "Akira Ifukube's 107th Birthday". Google.com. 31 May 2021.
  5. ^ a b Homenick, Erik. "Discography – Concert Works". Akiraifukube.org. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  6. ^ Ryfle 1998, p. 89–90.
  7. ^ "伊福部昭音楽資料室" [Akira Ifukube Music Library]. Town of Otofuke. Archived from the original on 23 January 2022. Retrieved 17 April 2023.


External links[edit]