I recently took a three week trip to Japan and while there, I naturally tried my hand at karaoke. I’ve always loved singing karaoke and Japan is the birthplace of this wonderful pastime, so it only made sense to give it a try. I was a little worried I would have to try singing Japanese songs, but it turned out that wasn’t the case. In fact, everything I thought I knew about karaoke turned out to not be the case.
Let’s start with the music. Japanese karaoke rooms have huge selections, including a ton of songs in English and Chinese and Korean in addition to the millions of Japanese language songs. And when it comes to English, the most popular karaoke songs in the country are all by the Beatles. The Japanese absolutely love the Beatles and almost every Japanese person can sing at least one Beatles song in English, even if they can’t speak a word of English otherwise.
During my karaoke visits in Japan, I participated in sing-alongs for Lucy With Diamonds In The Sky more times than I can remember. It is by far the most popular Beatles song among the Japanese, but they love many of their songs. Imagine by John Lennon is another huge favorite that almost everyone can sing. And it’s another one I ended up singing probably 20 times along with other people.
The other big difference is that karaoke places in Japan are private. You rent a private room with your friends, instead of having to get up in front of everybody and singing. I actually like this a lot better. Not only is it more cozy and fun, but you also don’t have to listen to hundreds of other terrible singers. And you get to sing a lot more often when you’re only waiting on your turn among a few of your friends and not a whole bar full of people. Every song that comes on, several other people usually sing along with, because they are all your friends. There are always at least two microphones in these karaoke rooms.
Another great thing about them is that they serve food and drinks, including alcohol, right in your room. It makes for a really fun night out with friends. You also get instruments in the room. Maracas and tambourines seemed to be the most popular. This means anyone who is not singing can still participate. No one ever needs to be bored. Personally, I always spent my non-singing time eating, but that’s just me. We even saw some rooms with instruments like violins. This was a really cool and strange surprise. I loved this so much, since the violin is my instrument.
Karaoke places in Japan are just so much fun. I’ve heard they are the same in South Korea and also in China, but I can only speak for Japan. They are very reasonably priced, as well. Of course, you have to pay extra for alcohol and for food, but the price always includes free nonalcoholic drinks. I’m a big tea drinker, so this was great for me. I had so much tea to wash down my food. And that’s another thing, the food was always excellent. In fact I never once had a bad meal anywhere in Japan. Even the food from convenience stores is great.
As for the music selection, songs by The Beatles are far from the only English songs. Just about anything you can think of, they will have. There are a lot of things they don’t have, obviously, but anything popular they have and a lot of things that aren’t too popular, as well.
I sang songs from Green Day and Jay-Z and Nirvana, but also a few songs from bands like Mazzy Star or tool or Tori Amos. The selection is amazing, especially when you consider this is only the English language selection, which is I believe number three or maybe number two. Japanese is obviously the largest but there are a ton of Chinese songs, too and Korean ones as well. It’s pretty incredible. I even went to a few karaoke places where they had Spanish language and French language songs. Unbelievable. If you ever make it to Japan you will definitely want to go to karaoke place. It is a can’t miss activity.