Smart & Cheap Japan Travel

Japanese Karaoke: Not What You Think | April 15, 2010

You’re at a pub full of alcoholics, everybody is way too drunk and tired, but nobody seems ready to go home yet to face morning, work, or the wife – or all of the above. A group of supposedly close-knit friends who are celebrating, well, nothing, suddenly appear with microphones in their hands, and in front of absolute strangers burst into obnoxious off-key song of a corny 80’s tune. 4 minutes of ear-bleeding and a beer later, you clap with everyone else, who hope, just like you, that nobody forces them on stage to embarrass themselves, but secretly yearn to sing along to the new Britney Spears single.

That’s what most people think of when it comes to karaoke. My question is, why would anyone want that experience? With the utmost respect for the British, the Irish, and the Scottish (and the Russian too I guess), most would need to reach their level of drinking to justify a night like the one I just described. Japanese karaoke, thankfully, is nothing like it – except for the drinking.

Karaoke is an essential part of Japanese culture. It can be found integrated into restaurants and different types of bars, but the most common are the karaoke parlors that consist of entire buildings with tens and hundreds of small private rooms, all fully equipped with deafening sound and karaoke systems.

The system is simple. You walk in, choose either a per-hour or free-time plan, and opt for all-you-can drink alcohol or not. The best part of this is, it’s quite cheap either way. This is when you will get your room number and microphones:

Japanese Karaoke 2

Inside your very own karaoke realm you will find a touch-screen remote control to choose and en-queue songs from a surprisingly long list (both English and Japanese songs):

Japanese Karaoke 4
Japanese Karaoke #2: Touch-Screen Remote
Japanese Karaoke 3

Japanese Karaoke #3

On the wall you will have a intercom through which you can order food & drinks at reasonable prices (or for free if you went for the all-you-can drink plan). Combined with the private and secluded party room, this convenient room service is what makes Japanese karaoke the ultimate night out with friends or co-workers (though usually it’s the after-party). A must-do during your Japan travel. Warning, you may end up like this:

Japanese Karaoke 5
Japanese Karaoke #4

Luckily, it’s not a bar full of strangers but just you and your friends…


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    Born in Tokyo. Lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for over a decade combined. Author of the book, "All-You-Can Japan: Getting the Most Bang for Your Yen" -

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