“Friday night and the lights are low. Looking out for the place to go….You are the Dancing Queen….” I’m taking it back to the late 1970’s when the Swedish pop group, ABBA, released their single “Dancing Queen.” If you’re thinking what I’m thinking, it’s a classic song just meant for karaoke. You can relive an Oldie But Goodie like this one by singing to your heart’s content in a soundproof, private room, with food & beverage. It’s a favorite pastime for locals of all ages, and popular among tourists, as seen in the movie Lost In Translation. Even if you’re not destined to appear in a singing competition like The Voice, it’s time to experience an ultimate "Rock Star" performance in Japan, starring YOU!
Karaoke (カラオケ) was invented in Kobe, Japan, more than twenty years ago. It is derived from the words “kara" meaning empty, and "oke" the abbreviation of "okesutora," or orchestra. Since karaoke has firmly established its presence around the globe, the Japanese word “karaoke” is now also listed in the distinguished The Oxford English Dictionary: in which a person sings the vocal line of a popular song to the accompaniment of a pre-recorded backing tape, and the voice is electronically amplified through the loudspeaker system for the audience.
Not fortunate enough to own a portable karaoke machine for home use? There’s a karaoke establishment near you and it’s likely open 24hours! In major cities, you are destined to run into places like Shidax or Karaoke Manekineko. Both storefronts are glitz and glam, with spotless rooms equipped with Japan’s premier karaoke equipment by JOYSOUND. Here are the key steps to enjoy karaoke in Japan:
- Switch your Rock Star button to the “ON” position
- Head to your preferred karaoke center
- Check-in at Reception counter (not Cashier counter)
- First time customer? You will need to complete a membership form to include Name, Phone number, Address, and Signature, at a minimum.
- Advise number of people in your party. A party of “1” is quite alright. This is not unusual. In fact, check out the solo karaoke placed named 1Kara in Shibuya.
- Determine session duration (1 hour, 2 hours, etc.). See #15 if more time is necessary.
- Decide which package works best for your party. A 1-hour session with an all-you-can-drink option is common. Non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages are typically included. Average price is 1,000yen per person, per hour. Pricing will ultimately depend on the day and time of your session.
- Advise smoking room preference.
- A receipt stamped with your assigned room number and start/finish times will be given to you. Payment is not required until you have completed your session.
- In the mood for a little extra jingle? Borrow a tambourine and a pair of maracas for free!
- Locate the Drink Bar and choose from soda, tea, or juice (sometimes you can even find soft serve ice cream!). Alcoholic beverages (aka Liquid Courage) may be ordered in just a minute from your room.
- Get acquainted with your private karaoke room! Spaces are clean and orderly. Television monitors should already be powered on. Grab the microphones and song selector device from their charging units.
- Take a seat and start compiling your playlist. An English button is available on the JOYSOUND unit!
- Place an order for food and alcoholic beverages by contacting your server through the installed phone. Additional charges may apply.
- Rock on! Sing to your heart’s content. The phone will ring 10-minutes before the finish time stamped on your receipt. If additional time is necessary, request an extension in 30-minute increments.
Karaoke is as much fun as you make it. Don’t be discouraged if you cannot read or speak Japanese. Many establishments may have a reference guide in English behind the counter. Or, if you have access to a smart phone, make use of a translation app like Waygo. It reads to translate Chinese, Japanese & Korean to English. Also, if you’re celebrating a birthday or anniversary, most karaoke spots have special rooms that can accommodate up to 40 people. Make your reservation today and have a blast!
Was this article helpful?
Originally from San Diego, California, I lived in Japan for 4-1/2 years and now I am currently based out of Honolulu, Hawaii. In December 2010, I arrived in Yokosuka with a new outlook on my future. Mainly, to refocus on family and let my curiosities take us to places we’ve only dreamt of. Along the way, we’d hopefully develop new friendships and simply collect memories to last a lifetime. Then, there was the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011. I will never forget that experience and the devastating effects it had on the entire country. I asked the community, “What can I do to help?” Collecting, sorting, and packing donations, was the least I could do. I also ended up going back to California for one month, raised a small monetary donation for Red Cross, and secured a few phone interviews to help spread the word on how others from the United States could assist. I was determined to show my family, friends, and folks across the world that it would be okay to return to Japan. After all, I wanted them to know that all of the little things that make up this beautiful country still existed. What better way than to use a platform such as JapanTravel.com to share photos and stories full of life, history, and culture. It is a pleasure to say I have contributed more than 150 articles to a database that now collectively holds more than 15,000! This journey has not only allowed me to realize my initial goals, but I’d like to think that it has somehow played a role in sparking an interest locally and across the globe for others to experience all that is published here and more. I invite you to also share your wonderful stories, offer comments, and ask questions right here on JapanTravel. Feel free to contact me at email@example.com. Safe travels! ٩( ๑╹ ꇴ╹)۶