Karaoke, (カラオケ) was invented in Japan in the 70s and is still an important part of Japanese culture today, which is making the country a lot of money (more than $3million in 2016!) So while you are in Japan, let’s try Karaoke! Here is a guide to help you enjoy your Karaoke experience.
In Japan, even if you can still find some Karaoke bars, Karaoke boxes are much more common nowadays. Karaoke boxes consist in private rooms where you can sing alone, with your friends, or even with your co-workers. Karaoke is therefore seen as a way to strengthen social ties.
Most places also offer “nomihoudai”, (all-you-can-drink course), and once in the box, Japanese people let go of their inhibitions and just have fun while drinking alcohol.
If you plan to go to Karaoke alone or with non-Japanese friends, here are some steps to follow:
1) Find a Karaoke establishment. Try searching for the sign “カラオケ” (karaoke). The most popular Karaoke chains in Japan are Karaoke-kan (カラオケ館), Big Echo, and Utahiroba (歌広場). These chains generally offer a large selection of English songs . At the entrance, you will generally find the price. However, be careful since it may vary depending on the time and days of the week, and does not include beverages (in most places, one drink minimum per person is required.)
2) Go to the reception counter, where you will have to fill out a form in Japanese. If you can’t read Japanese, just tell the receptionist your name, the number of people in your group, and how long you expect to stay.
In some establishments, you can get a student discount, even if you are an overseas student. Try to show your student ID to see if you can get one.
3) The receptionist will then give you the following receipt.
On your way to your room, you might find tambourines and maracas that can be used for free.
4) In your room, you will find 2 microphones (that you will have to share), and the following control pads:
5) You can adjust the volume of the song and of the microphone, but also the reverb or the key.
6) If you want to order some drinks, just pick up the phone of your room and tell the receptionist what you want (you don’t need to mention your room number.)
7) Check the time. If you go over the time limit, you will have to pay an additional fee, so be careful about that.
8) Don’t forget to bring the receipt with you to the reception counter in order to pay. Finally, even if it is not mandatory, put the microphones and the control pads back and leave the room clean. Alone or with friends, try going to Karaoke and have fun!
A final tip: if you plan to go there often, in some establishments, such as Karaoke-kan, you can have a membership card for a 200 yens fees, with which you can access exclusive discounts.
Photos: Kota Wada