Chances are, if you are in Japan you will go to the renowned karaoke that is always shown in movies and pop culture. Nearly everyone in Japan loves karaoke—from high school kids to elders. Karaoke is essentially a space to have a private party, regardless of size—you can be just two to six or even fly solo. Yes, people do go to karaoke alone, and it is not as miserable as it seems haha. Many go to karaoke alone to record themselves for auditions or just to let loose and relax.
Karaoke tends to bring out the wild side in virtually everyone, regardless of age. Seemingly shy and introverted people are the most likely to be very upbeat and out-there, or better yet [元気] (genki), at karaoke.
Karaoke places are extremely common throughout Japan, and in abundance in urban areas. They may be found in entertainment neighbourhoods in major cities such as Tokyo and Osaka. Some areas, like Shinjuku and Umeda have over 40 places alone. Karaoke are frequently big buildings, typically with numerous floors of karaoke boxes. The characters [カラオケ] (karaoke) are vital to finding karaoke places in Japan.
Karaoke rates are generally per person per hour, though sometimes is may be for 30 minutes or all night. There are always different plans available including [飲み放題] (nomihoudai), all-you-can-drink plans. Be sure to make sure you understand your rate very clearly before you accept a room, for it is extremely easy to run up big charges in a karaoke.
You will be asked how long you need the room, which typically may be extended. The karaoke will call you 10 minutes before your time is up to remind you in most cases. I have only had them not call when it is an all-night plan.
Karaoke is cheap in the mid-afternoons and more costly at night. Prices also differ by place and how up-to-date the place is. All night plans are frequently available after a certain time of night, which usually last until around 3~5am.
The Dreaded Remote Control
Karaoke remotes are somewhat difficult to use, even if you understand Japanese at times. The remotes are touchscreen displays that are wireless. They have an option to display English song titles but menu buttons often remain in Japanese at all times.
Somehow most people manage to figure it out. If you understand the remote you’ll be popular.
There’s a phone on the wall you use to order food and drinks, as well as to call the staff If you have any problems with the microphones or remote. Also, be careful with the remotes too, for nowadays many karaoke places have two methods to order food/drinks. Many now have another touchscreen display that you use to place your orders, rather than call it in, though you can usually do both. It is easy to grab one remote and think it is for music at first, so be careful not to order food instead of ordering your next jam. 😛
Karaoke machines add echo to your voice, along with many other voice alterations. This can be turned up and down with controls on the karaoke machine itself, and you can mess around with the different settings as well. For whatever reason, most gaijin have a sort of reputation—gaijin dislike echo. A lot of my friends dislike it all together, though there are some that like a little, and even some that crack it up.
Karaoke machines rate your singing, however off it may be with pitch or the likes. 😛 It is all in good fun ultimately. Many new machines nowadays rate how many calories one burned with their song. The machine is always right with calories at least, which makes it a great topic of choice for many to make a competition out of. Haha.
Nobody can sing. 😛 Most karaoke fans are not amazing singers—you will not see them on The Voice or Glee—they are party people, plain and simple. Join a karaoke party even if you do not sing. Most times, you will not get pushed and pressured to sing if you do not want to, for most people are fighting it off for the microphone itself haha. Though, I highly recommend taking a shot at it regardless if you are an amazing singer or not, it is all great fun either way.
A key point to note, especially if you are not with friends but co-workers (which is extremely common in Japan), is that regardless if someone sings badly, no matter how horrid, it is extremely impolite to cover your ears or take the microphone from them. You will offend someone beyond compare if you do, for as previously said, the purpose of karaoke is not to show off amazing vocal skills but to have a fun time.