There’s nothing quite like piling into a karaoke room with a few friends to sing your heart out after a night of drinking. Grab the touchscreen input, search for your favorite songs, add them to the line up, and rock out until you sound like a 50-year smoker at the end of the night.
Things I’ll Miss #1: Karaoke
Going to karaoke in Japan is so much more than standing up on stage in front of a lonely mic to serenade a bar full of unappreciative strangers. While there are bars (called “snacks”) that offer karaoke as a side attraction to drinking, there are dozens of places that specialize in karaoke as the main entertainment.
Karaoke places in Japan offer rooms of varying size that you can use for a set fee per hour per person. The fee changes depending on when you go–normally it’s cheaper in the afternoon, and more expensive in the evening and on weekends. We try to aim for “free time,” which means that after a certain time (usually about 11 PM) you pay a flat fee (¥1500 or so per person) and can stay in the room up to the cut-off (usually about 6 AM the next morning). Some companies even offer themed rooms or costumes you can borrow free of charge to wear to really add to the atmosphere of rock stardom.
Jeff and I actually spent the night in a karaoke room about two years ago after we couldn’t find any hotels or hostels to take us last minute when we were rained out of our tent at Summer Sonic in Osaka. This is the next best thing to internet cafes when it comes to finding emergency accommodation in Japan, and it’s not actually that uncomfortable to sleep on the couches. The doors don’t lock, but there’s very little worry about someone coming into the room unannounced, so privacy isn’t an issue. Not that I would recommend doing anything in a karaoke room beyond singing or sleeping, of course.
Most karaoke places also offer a pretty good menu of food and drink (alcoholic and otherwise). They offer all-you-can-drink specials, drink bars, and set courses for parties. Normally we order a la carte since by the time we get to karaoke we’ve already had our fill of alcohol, but karaoke and all-you-can-drink tend to go hand in hand.
Of course, you can be completely sober and still have a blast too. Some karaoke places offer free soft-serve ice cream as part of their drink bars; one of my go-to karaoke drinks is a drink bar coffee float.
You search for songs using a wireless touchscreen pad with an attached stylus. There are options to search by artist name, song name, or you can go through the list of recently popular songs.
Singing Japanese songs at karaoke is a great way to train your reading skills if you’re studying Japanese, but there are also plenty of English songs available too. They range from recent pop hits to oldies but goodies. Sometimes the original music video accompanies the song in the background, but more often than not it’s ridiculous stock footage that looks like it was filmed in the 80s or early 90s.
Some of our favorites to sing are Bohemian Rhapsody, Sweet Caroline, and Don’t Stop Believin’. Everyone jumps in for these songs, and we wouldn’t have it any other way. Singing solo or as part of a duet is great too, but for songs like these (especially Bohemian Rhapsody), it’s only fun if everyone is hollering at the top of their lungs. Backstreet Boys, Spice Girls, and Disney songs are also staples of our line-up, and are inevitably preceded by loud, drunken cries of nostalgia.
What’s your favorite song to sing at karaoke?