World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Akira Ifukube

Akira Ifukube

Akira Ifukube (伊福部 昭 Ifukube Akira, 31 May 1914 – 8 February 2006) was a Japanese composer of classical music and film scores, perhaps best known for his work on the soundtracks of the Godzilla movies by Toho.


  • Biography 1
    • Honors 1.1
  • Works 2
    • Orchestral 2.1
    • Chamber and instrumental 2.2
    • Vocal 2.3
    • Film scores 2.4
  • References 3
  • External links 4


Akira Ifukube was born on May 31, 1914 in Kushiro on the Japanese island of Hokkaidō, the third son of a Shinto priest. Much of his childhood was spent in areas with a mixed Japanese and Ainu population, and his father, unusually for the time, socialised with Ainu. Ifukube was strongly influenced by the traditional music of both peoples, and studied the violin and the shamisen. His first encounter with classical music occurred when attending secondary school in Hokkaidō's capital, Sapporo. Legend has it that Ifukube decided to become a composer at the age of 14 after hearing a radio performance of Igor Stravinsky's ballet, The Rite of Spring. He also cited the music of Manuel de Falla as a major influence.

Ifukube went on to study Spanish Civil War. Ifukube's big break came in 1935, when his first orchestral piece, Japanese Rhapsody, won the first prize in an international contest 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.[1] The next year, Ifukube studied modern Western composition while Tcherepnin was visiting Japan, and in 1938 his Piano Suite obtained an honourable mention at the I.C.S.M. festival in Venice. In the late 1930s his music, especially Japanese Rhapsody, was performed in Europe on a number of occasions.

On completing University, he worked as a forestry officer and lumber processor, 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 1953, he taught at the Nihon University College of Art, during which period he composed his first film score for The End of the Silver Mountains, 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 and Kaoru Wada, Yssimal Motoji and Imai Satoshi. He also published Orchestration, a 1,000-page book on theory.

He died in multiple organ dysfunction on February 8, 2006 at the age of 91.


The Japanese government awarded Ifukube the Order of Culture. Subsequently, he was awarded the Order of the Sacred Treasure, Third Class.[2]



  • Japanese Rhapsody (1935)[5][6]
  • Triptyque aborigene for chamber orchestra (1937)
  • Symphony Concertante for piano and orchestra (1941)
  • Ballata sinfonica (1943)[7]
  • Overture to the Nation of Philippines (1944)
  • Salome (1948) – ballet based on Khachaturian.
  • Fire of Prometheus (1950)
  • Drumming of Japan (1951, revised 1984)
  • Sinfonia Tapkaara (1954, revised 1979)[8]
  • Ritmica Ostinata for piano and orchestra (1961, revised 1971)
  • Ronde in Burlesque for wind orchestra (1972, arranged to orchestra in 1983)
  • Violin Concerto No. 2 (1978)
  • Lauda concertata for marimba and orchestra (1979)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 1 (1983)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 2 (1983)
  • Symphonic Fantasia No. 3 (1983)
  • Gotama the Buddha, symphonic ode for mixed chorus and orchestra (1989)
  • for orchestra (1991)Japanese Suite on YouTube
  • Japanese Suite for string orchestra (1998)

Chamber and instrumental

  • Piano Suite (1933)
  • 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 (1946)
  • Three Lullabies among the Native Tribes on the Island of Sakhalin (1949)
  • Eclogues after Epos among Aino Races for solo voice and 4 kettle drums (1950)
  • A Shanty of the Shiretoko Peninsula (1960)
  • 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)
  • La Fontaine sacrée for soprano, viola, bassoon and harp (1964, 2000); arrangement by the composer from the 1964 film score Mothra vs. Godzilla

Film scores

In addition, his work were also used in Godzilla vs. Biollante, Godzilla vs. SpaceGodzilla, Godzilla 2000, Godzilla vs. Megaguirus, Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack, and Godzilla: Final Wars.


  1. ^ liner notes: Naxos 8.555071 (Morihide Katayarna)
  2. ^ L'Harmattan web site (in French)

External links

  • Akira Ifukube at the Internet Movie Database
  • A guide to Ifukube's concert music on CD
  • Information about his death in Japanese
  • AKIRAIFUKUBE.ORG:A virtual museum dedicated to Akira Ifukube
  • Larson, Randall D. Voice of Gojira: Remembering Akira Ifukube at the Wayback Machine (archived April 18, 2008) at
  • Milner, David. Yohihiko Shibata (trans.) December 1992 & December 1993. "The Complete Akira Ifukube Interview", Kaiju Fan Online.
This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.