In a land where stepping out from the crowd is boldly avoided, karaoke can be a place of fearless individual expression. Here, even the most uptight businessmen will loosen their ties and soulfully serenade their coworkers with heartwarming melodies and “poppy” hits.
While in foreign countries karaoke is typically only accessible on certain nights at local bars where one is expected to “perform.” In Japan, it is an easy access which you can find by walking to your local train station, and is a no-stress activity that people of all singing levels can enjoy. Rather than performing in front of strangers, a typical night out of karaoke is done in establishments known as ‘karaoke boxes’ – offering small rooms to enjoy karaoke with your friends and colleagues. Here you’ll enjoy an intimate setting with group of friends, erasing any “need to impress,” and allowing everyone to enjoy their own comfort level. Lights flashing, walls plastered with whimsical glow-in-the-dark designs, a night at a karaoke box is as much a “must do” as visiting a shrine or sampling sushi!
Visiting a Karaoke Box
In cities like Tokyo and Osaka, you are usually never more than a few minute walk from a karaoke box. Often they’ll be found close to train stations. If you have trouble finding one, ask at your hotel to find out the closest one. Remember, karaoke is pronounced KAH-RAH-OH-KEH, asking someone where “kary-oki” could result in great confusion.
Once you’ve arrived, choose how long you want to sing. The pricing schematic varies depending on what time of day you are singing, but two hours is a pretty good length of time for a group of 4-6, and will run around 1,500 – 2,500 yen ($13-$20) per person for two hours.
If you are just looking for your standard karaoke experience, try Karaoke-kan, Big Echo or Shidax. They deal with non-Japanese speaking customers frequently enough that communication won’t be a problem.
Big Echo http://big-echo.jp/welcome！big-echo/
1. Support your comrades!
It isn’t about being the best; it’s about relaxing and having fun. Now, you’re up next!
2. No mic hogs!
Once you put a song in, pass the device around to give someone else a chance to put in a different song.
3. Focus on the person singing
Generally Japanese people will try to focus on and support the singer by clapping along or banging a tambourine. (which are available in almost all karaoke boxes).
4. Choose wisely and you shall be rewarded.
When you choose a popular song that everybody knows, you’ll be a smash hit no matter how you sing!
Definitely agree with that last point. Choose wisely indeed.
There was a program on TV here in Japan the other day, where the TV crew found a middle-aged, family guy who was finishing work in the office and then spending all night in a karaoke box. He would sing a few songs, have a few beers and then sleep and go to work the next day. Turns out all wasn't well on the home front and he was using the karaoke box as temporary accommodation. Cheaper than a hotel.
I went into a karaoke bar in Kyoto with two travel companions. The bar was run by (what appeared to be) a middle-aged couple, who immediately brought us drinks and a catalog of English-language songs to choose from. There were a few salarymen there, singing incredibly cheesy pop songs (I think they could be classified as what the Germans call Schlagers). I might've shocked the locals when I sang 'Minority' by Green Day, partly because that's a punk rock song and partly because of my (lack of) singing skills.
The real fun started when I heard two people singing a duet. It dawned on me that there was no-one in the bar who would qualify as a young woman, so I turned around to have a look -- one of the salarymen was doing the 'male' part while another did the 'female' part, and amazingly skillfully as well. You bet we cheered them on!
I also sang a song together with the bartender, 'House of the Rising Sun' by the Animals, if I recall correctly.
@Visit_Japan oh yes...working on my 'set list' ...