Everyone loves Japanese karaoke. I have not taken anyone to karaoke in Japan who did not enjoy it. When I first mention it, everyone has the same reaction. They would rather give it a pass. However, after two hours of karaoke, they are hooked and begging for more!
Karaoke is originally from Japan and very much a part of Japanese culture. Most events in Japan end with a visit to the nearest karaoke box. Major chains, such as Big Echo and Karaoke Kan, can get crowded on Friday and Saturday nights with a waiting list.
I recommend all visitors to Japan to experience Japanese-style karaoke. It’s just as much a part of Japanese culture as hot springs, temples, and staying at a ryokan.
7 Reasons Why Tourists Love Japanese Karaoke
1. Private Rooms
Modern Japan karaoke chains assign you a private room depending on the size of your party. They have small rooms available for just one or two people and party rooms that hold up to 40 people. The rooms have a large table in the middle, a television screen, two microphones, and several remote controls.
The first person enters a song on the remote control, and the singing begins! Japanese karaoke consists of hanging out with your friends and belting out your favorite songs. No one cares how well or how badly you sing.
2. Food & Drink
The best part about karaoke in Japan is the service. There is a telephone in your room to order food and drinks. You never have to leave the room! Just pick up the telephone and order anything you want.
Please note that food and drinks are not included in the price. However, many places offer all-you-can-drink packages with your room. You have to specify that you want the package before you order drinks in order for it to take effect.
3. English Songs
There is a wide variety of English songs, including classic rock and recent hits. You can find songs by using the remote controls or ask for a song catalogue. The newer remote controls have multiple languages and you can search songs by title or artist.
You can add as many songs as you like and the karaoke machine adds them to the queue. It’s best to prepare a list of songs you might want to try in advance because your mind goes blank once you have the remote control in your hands.
To make things more fun, karaoke establishments offer tambourines and maracas. These are sometimes in the room, but always available if you ask.
5. Time Extensions
When you first arrive and register for a room, the attendant will ask how long you plan on staying. If you’re not sure, you can start with one or two hours. Near the end of the two hours, the attendant will call the room to notify you that your time is up. At this point, you can ask for an extension. If there is not a waiting list, then you can stay as long as you like.
6. Karaoke Videos
When you make a selection for a song on the remote control, it instantly starts to play on the television. Along with the words to the song, a video plays in the background. These are not MTV videos, but videos the Japanese karaoke companies have put together. The videos range from hilarious to completely bizarre.
Karaoke is available everywhere in Japan, especially near train stations and shopping areas. For tourists, it’s better to seek out the big chains, such as Big Echo, Jankara, or Karaoke-kan, because they have a wider selection of English songs and English menus.
Pricing is always confusing. You usually pay per person per half hour, and there are additional charges for all-you-can-drink. In general, you can expect to spend around 5,000 yen per person for 3 hours of karaoke and all-you-can-drink alcohol.
There are a few rules of Japanese etiquette to keep in mind when going to karaoke with a group of people.
- Don’t put in multiple songs in a row. Make sure everyone in the group has a chance to enter a song before you punch in your next song. You don’t want to be the only person singing for the next hour!
- Don’t sing other people’s songs. Some songs are great for everyone to sing along, such as Piano Man or American Pie, but for other songs let the person sing their own song unless you are asked to join in.
- Be a good audience. When you are not singing, follow along with the song and cheer on the person singing. Don’t talk loudly to another person or leave the room during someone’s song.
- Most importantly, don’t hold back. Belt out the song and give it all you’ve got. Japanese karaoke is the most fun when everyone gets into it and has fun with it. Even the shyest of Japanese people turn into rock stars once they get the microphone!
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Becki and Shawn
Japan Travel Specialists
Hi, we’re Becki and Shawn! We love Japan and are truly passionate about Japan and Japan travel.
We’ve lived, worked, and traveled in Japan for 20+ years, so we know where to go, what to see, and how to get there. Join us in Japan for an adventure of a lifetime!