Akira Ifukube

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Akira Ifukube
伊福部 昭
Akira Ifukube.jpg
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)
Website akiraifukube.org

Akira Ifukube (伊福部 昭, Ifukube Akira, 31 May 1914 8 February 2006) was a Japanese classical and film music composer, best known for his works on the Godzilla franchise.



Early years in Hokkaido

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 international competition for young 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.

From 1946 to 2006 in Tokyo

Ifukube in 1956 Ifukube akira.jpg
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 Kaoru Wada, Shigeyuki Imai, Satoshi Imai, Toshiro Mayuzumi, Yasushi Akutagawa, Akio Yashiro, Teizo Matsumura, Sei Ikeno, Minoru Miki, Maki Ishii, and Yssimal Motoji. 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 Ifukube Akira1960.jpg
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]





Film scores

1947 Snow Trail Senkichi Taniguchi
Kôfuku eno shôtaiYasuki Chiba
Meitantei Hiroshi kunHideo SekigawaShort film
1948Daini no jinseiHideo 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
1950City of the Spider
White Beast
Listen to the Student's Memoirs Senbotsu Japan,
Voice of Wadatsumi
Flowers of Seven Colors
1951Beyond Love and Hate
Clothes of Deception
Free School
The Tale of Genji Kōzaburō Yoshimura
1952 Children of Hiroshima Kaneto Shindo
Swift Current
Tenryu River
1953A Thousand Paper Cranes
Anatahan Josef von Sternberg
White Fish
Crab Ship
1954Sakuma Dam Part One
Cape Ashizuri
Muddy Youth
Godzilla Ishiro Honda
1955 Ningen Gyorai Kaiten Shūe Matsubayashi
Women of Ginza
The Maid's Child
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
1957Osaka 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
1958Yagyu Secret Scrolls: Ninjitsu
Sorrow Is Only for Women
A Bridge for Us Alone
Ice Wall
Varan the Unbelievable Ishirō HondaJapanese version
1959Boss 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
1960Baluchaung 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 HondaJapanese version [lower-alpha 1]
The Great Wall
Chūshingura: Hana no Maki, Yuki no Maki Hiroshi Inagaki
1963 The New Tale of Zatoichi Tokuzō Tanaka
Wanpaku Ōji no Orochi Taiji Yūgo Serikawa
13 Assassins Eiichi Kudo
Zatoichi the Fugitive Tokuzō Tanaka
Zatoichi on the Road Kimiyoshi Yasuda
Atragon Ishirō Honda
1964Teikoku 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
1965Tokugawa Ieyasu
Zatoichi's Revenge Akira Inoue
Japanese Archipelago
Frankenstein Conquers the World 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 DaimajinKenji 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 ChallengersYasuki Chiba
1969Dawn 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
1973Zatoichi's Conspiracy
The Human Revolution
1974Oh Wolf, Slay the Setting Sun
Sandakan No. 8
1975 Terror of Mechagodzilla Ishirō Honda
The Door Has Opened
1976The Great Elm
1977The Sea, the Wings and Tomorrow
1978 Ogin-sama Kei Kumai
1991Dozoku no ranjo
Godzilla vs. King Ghidorah Kazuki Ōmori
1992 Godzilla vs. Mothra Takao Okawara
1993 Godzilla vs. Mechagodzilla II Takao Okawara
Kushiro Marshland
1995 Godzilla vs. Destoroyah Takao Okawara
1999 Godzilla 2000 Takao OkawaraStock music
2000 Godzilla vs. Megaguirus Masaaki TezukaStock music
2001 Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah:
Giant Monsters All-Out Attack
Shusuke Kaneko Stock music
2004 Godzilla: Final Wars Ryuhei Kitamura Stock music
2007Tetsujin 28-gô: Hakuchû no zangetsu Yasuhiro Imagawa Posthumous score
2016 Shin Godzilla Hideaki Anno
Shinji Higuchi
Stock music


  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]

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  1. 1 2 3 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. 1 2 Homenick, Erik. "Discography – Concert Works". Akiraifukube.org. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  6. Ryfle 1998, p. 89–90.