Ryuichi Sakamoto Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

Ryuichi Sakamoto Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence | Instrumental, vocal, solo piano… it always sounds exceptional

ryuichi sakamoto merry christmas mr lawrence

There are compositions that go beyond music, such is the case of this work that the great Japanese artist Ryuichi Sakamoto made popular, who not only composed this work of art called ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence, but also starred in the film to which it belongs. By the way, today you will discover the piano version 🎹, which is even better than the original. Stay tuned!

Video | Ryuichi Sakamoto Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Trembol | Story behind Ryuichi Sakamoto and Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence‘ is an awesome song, especially for piano students, because with a medium-low complexity, you are able to play a beautiful melody. That’s how I first came to this wonderful tune.

I would soon discover more about its author, the 1954 Japanese-born musician and actor Ryūichi Sakamoto (坂本 龍), and especially soak up his incredible body of work, which began in 1978 as a keyboardist and sporadic vocalist in the electronic music band Yellow Magic Orchestra (YMO).

Ryuichi would continue his long career, releasing several solo albums of experimental music, until 1983, when he got the opportunity to star in the film “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence, also known as “Furyō”.

He shared the screen with David Bowie, Tom Conti and Takeshi Kitano. In addition to acting, Sakamoto was in charge of composing the soundtrack, which included the instrumental theme song of the same name as the film, ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’.

  • The same soundtrack includes a vocal version of the song called ‘Forbidden Colours, featuring singer David Sylvian.

In addition to reaching the Top 20 singles chart in the UK and winning a BAFTA award, the song, without having a Christmas theme, has become a British, American and Japanese Christmas classic 🎄

After a hit like that, Ryuichi Sakamoto, of course, didn’t stop, composing in 1987 another legendary soundtrack, the one for ‘The Last Emperor‘, with which he won an Oscar and a Grammy.

  • He went on to win 2 more Golden Globes, and even composed the music for the opening of the 1992 Barcelona Olympics 🤸🏼

Sakamoto, who lived between Tokyo and New York, wrote music for video games, anime, films, albums, etc. in an eclectic career that ended with his death on 28 March 2023.

Ryuichi will always be remembered for ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’, a song with Asian touches, which conveys peace and a strange feeling of kindness. By the way, our favourite version is the one played by Sakamoto on piano alone. You will find out now…

Ryuchi Sakamoto commented on Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

story behind Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence

‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ film cover

Ryuichi Sakamoto biography

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Facebook image)

bio Ryuichi Sakamoto

Ryuichi Sakamoto (Facebook Image)


When we went to see the first rough cuts of ‘Merry Christmas, Mr Lawrence,’ I fell to the floor because my acting was so bad. I wrote music to compensate for my bad acting.

🎵 Discover the story behind other great songs

The 4 original versions of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Instrumental version of ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

The original song is an instrumental and appeared on the soundtrack of the film of the same name. It makes use of synthesizers that turn the song into electronic music.

Vocal version. ‘Forbidden Colours

The second version can be found on the same soundtrack, this time sung by David Sylvian. Its name is ‘Forbidden Colours‘. The music is produced differently from the instrumental, being played on piano.

Piano versión of ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Funnily enough, the most popular version is none of the above, but the one performed by Ryuichi Sakamoto alone with his piano. An authentic work of art that uncovers the essence of the melody, moving with every note.

Piano and violin version of ‘Forbidden Colours’

There is also a fantastic original piano and violin version published by Sakamoto himself a few years later, in 1996.

You can’t miss ⭐️ Best parts of Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

1. It’s only 3 notes, but the beginning of the track is simply magical.

2. The melody transports you to a rice field in Japan 🍚

3.  The tempo and the tension raise showing Sakamoto’s mastery of timing

This is what it says | Ryuichi Sakamoto Forbidden Colours Lyrics

Englihs lyrics


The wounds on your hands never seem to heal
I thought all I needed was to believe

Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or the beat of my heart
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes

Senseless years thunder by
Millions are willing to give their lives for you
Does nothing live on?

Learning to cope with feelings aroused in me
My hands in the soil, buried inside of myself
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again

I`ll go walking in circles
While doubting the very ground beneath me
Trying to show unquestioning faith in everything
Here am I, a lifetime away from you
The blood of Christ, or a change of heart

My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes
My love wears forbidden colours
My life believes in you once again



Las heridas en tus manos nunca parecen sanar
Pensé que todo lo que necesitaba era creer

Aquí estoy, toda una vida lejos de ti
La sangre de Cristo, o el latido de mi corazón
Mi amor lleva colores prohibidos
Mi vida cree

Los años sin sentido truenan
Millones están dispuestos a dar la vida por ti
¿No vive nada?

Aprendiendo a lidiar con los sentimientos que despiertan en mí
Mis manos en la tierra, enterradas dentro de mí
Mi amor viste colores prohibidos
Mi vida vuelve a creer en ti

Caminaré en círculos
Dudando del suelo bajo mis pies
Tratando de mostrar fe incuestionable en todo
Aquí estoy, a una vida de distancia de ti
La sangre de Cristo, o un cambio de corazón

Mi amor lleva colores prohibidos
Mi vida cree
Mi amor viste colores prohibidos
Mi vida cree en ti una vez más

Songwriters: David Sylvian / Ryuichi Sakamoto | Lyrics of Forbidden Colours © BMG Rights Management, Music Sales Corporation, Regard Music | Background Image: Ryuichi Sakamoto (facebook image)

Did you know...?

Ryuichi Sakamoto has performed several times in addition to his famous role as Captain Yonoi in ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’. He was in the film ‘The Last Emperor‘ and even appeared in the music video for Madonna’s ‘Rain’.

The last time Sakamoto played ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence was in a streaming concert in 2022, when he had been battling cancer for more than 8 years.

R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck has stated on more than one occasion that ‘Losing My Relgion‘ has a mandolin part directly inspired by ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence‘.

Much more | New versions (some very good)

In 2009, British singer Faryl Smith made a beautifully vocal version entitled “Merry Christmas Mr Lawrence (Somewhere Far Away)“. Our favourite:

In 1999, DJ Quicksilver remixed “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence” into his track ‘Heart of Asia‘ using the alias ‘Watergate’. It was a big hit, especially in Europe.

Since then there have been many other covers:

  • Hikaru Utada sampled it in 2009 in a sung version.
  • Hardcore Orbit did a very powerful hardcore version of ‘Heart of Asia’ in 2000.
  • Japanese post-hardcore band Fact also recorded it in a version where it’s hard to recognise the original track, but with a lot of energy.
  • The Japanese all-girl big band Tokyo Brass Style has a nice version too.
  • Very remarkable is Electric Youth‘s homage, which also includes images of Ryuichi Sakamoto in the music video.

Technical Note | Ryuichi Sakamoto ‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’

🎼 The original version of ‘Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence’ is composed in B flat minor and is played at 104 bpm.

  • The version for piano beginners that we mentioned before is played at 71 bpm in C major, that is, without alterations. You can find it on our Patreon if you want it.

✔️ In the instrumental version we find everything from soft elliptical chimes to tension-laden staccato bursts, making Sakamoto’s final composition a palette full of different emotions that perfectly matches the film.

✔️ In the vocal version, ‘Forbidden Colours’, however, the music begins with piano, leading to tubular bells and a xylophone that give it an oriental feel, and a fantastic percussive beat.

soundtrack merry christmas mr lawrence

‘Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence’ Original Sountrack

ryuichi sakamoto merry christmas mr lawrence
ryuichi sakamoto merry christmas mr lawrence

What is your favourite version of Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence? ♥️


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