By Michael Ying
Karaoke is one of the most famous Japanese exports. Singing with friends or coworkers is an incredibly popular pastime amongst young and old alike. So what if you love to sing but suffer from one or more of the following ailments: shyness/diffidence, lack of friends, depression, atrocious singing voice? Or maybe you just want to practice your go-to songs before a night out with friends. Never fear, 1Kara (pronounced 'Wankara') is here to satisfy your solo karaoke needs.
Singing alone in a tiny closet-sized booth sounds a bit like one of the most pathetic activities known to mankind. And perhaps it is. But the spurt in solo singers booking karaoke booths at existing karaoke chains inspired the creation of 1Kara, which now has six locations and is owned by the Karaoke Manekineko chain. Solitary songbirds now have a place dedicated to their solo pursuits.
Shibuya's 1Kara location is five minutes from JR Shibuya Station, right off of the well-trodden Center-gai street. This location was offering a new member's trial period when I stopped in: one hour of singing free of charge. Check here for specials before you visit (but note the info is only in Japanese).
Prior to getting your singing equipment and room assignment, step over to the point card registration area with two computer stands. The registration takes just a few minutes. All you have to do is follow the prompts and enter your name, birthday, address, gender and phone number. Keep in mind that registration is in Japanese only.
The price on weekdays from 6am to noon is 250 yen per half hour, rising to 400 yen per half hour after that. On weekends, you'll pay 450 yen per half hour.
The karaoke booths are equipped with everything soloists require: microphones, small TV screen to display lyrics, sound mixer, chair and the karaoke song remote. Quality Audio-Technica headphone rentals are available for 300 yen. For the new members trial, headphones are included free of charge. Songs can be selected in Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. The rooms are comfortable and immaculately clean. A recording can be made of your session, upon request.
1Kara is the latest in karaoke trends and attracts a great number of soloists. Satisfy your inner diva (or 'devo') and belt it out at 1Kara.
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