Karaoke 4 Life
Karaoke is something that I look forward to in Japan. The concept of karaoke in most western countries is a nerve racking performance in front of a crowd at a function or bar, which usually includes being laughed at if you are not a brilliant singer. In Japan this is not the case at all. You will find karaoke in bars, but instead of being the focus, it is more often than not a form of background music. Everyone remains in their seats and simply pass the microphone around the room.
Karaoke in its true form is a small privately rented room paid for by the hour, with drinks and snacks to order, and if you are really lucky unlimited ice cream (have only seen this once, but a girl can dream). It is the go to social function for all ages, especially popular for work parties. I won’t go into work events too much right now, because I certainly have enough dirt to start an entirely new blog, but let’s just say that they are a more common occurrence than your average Australian work get-together. So if you are working in Japan, you will probably find yourself going to Karaoke for one reason or another on a regular basis. For this reason, I have written a brief survival guide below.
So you have been invited to Karaoke… What now? Well, the first thing that you will need to consider is song choice. I usually choose to stick with a few of the old favorites, my go to songs that are sure to impress. My first solid pick is U Got It Bad by Usher. Why? That’s easy. It’s because unless you have seen my Ipod you would never expect it. People love being surprised, especially at Karaoke, and especially if you can nail it. My second choice is typically something along the lines of How You Remind Me by Nickelback. Nickelback is always a safe choice. They released their albums in Japan, so there is a reasonable chance younger Japanese people will know them, or at least recognize a song. Also, most of their songs have a steady pace and no unreachably high notes.
Along with your personal picks, you should always expect a few requests. This is unavoidable if you are with Japanese people. Singing karaoke in Japan is, as I have mentioned, a very common social activity, perhaps even an every week event. However, singing karaoke with a foreigner is a rare experience and a novelty. Karaoke machines are full of favorite English songs that are never heard. You are their opportunity to hear these songs, and after a few drinks they will have no hesitation in asking you to indulge them. If your company is older, the requests may include ABBA, Diana Ross, the Beatles, and some you have probably never heard of. If you are with your own age group, the requests will most definitely include Lady Gaga, Avril Lavigne, Justin Bieber (help me!), and perhaps even some Beyonce. If you do not know the song, then you will have no choice other than to bluff your way through it. Luckily, if they are tipsy enough to ask you to sing, then they have probably also reached the tone deaf stage of the evening. That, and all English words kind of sound the same anyways, don’t they?
Another interesting feature of the karaoke machines themselves, is a performance rating system that you can turn on or off for your pleasure. It is similar in function to the Playstation game Singstar, which gives you a percentage score out of 100 based on hitting the right notes at the right time. A feature that is not included in the Singstar game however, is the calorie count. Just in case you were wondering how many calories you burned singing that song, there it is on the screen. Never mind the fact that you are probably drinking at least one or two alcoholic beverages for every song you sing, especially if you signed up for the all you can drink option. That’s irrelevant of course.
I would like to finish up with one last important point. The most intertesting thing I have ever seen at karaoke is a dance routine called fireworks, created and performed by three grown men. This dance involved the men standing in a line and jumping part way or all the way up in sequence, like a fireworks display. I was in stiches with laughter. This beyond a doubt proves that the most important aspect of karaoke is not how well you can sing, it is how much effort you put in.