|Karaoke, Lost in Translation style|
In Japan, any fun night out has to include a few hours of karaoke, usually at the very end of the night (or early morning), when everyone is inebriated and uninhibited. As opposed to karaoke bars back home, singing in Japan is not done in front of a full audience. Instead, private rooms are rented, in which anywhere from one to over ten people can squeeze in and sing their hearts out (people do go to karaoke on their own, apparently).
Karaoke is taken quite seriously in Japan: some even practice before a group event (most likely work-related), and most of my Japanese friends are surprisingly amazing at performing songs. I suppose non-Japanese's take on karaoke is a bit different, as we shamelessly blurt out high notes we can't quite reach and make sure we select the tackiest songs we can find on the menu.
To be fair, the selection is rather impressive, ranging from The Smiths and Joy Division, to early 90s cheeseballs such a Snow and Kriss Kross and other, more or less obscure one-hit wonders. Karaoke is usually a trip back to high school memory lane for most of us, and even though I'm never too keen on going karaoke, once I get there I get very enthralled, dancing and hogging the microphone.
Karaoke rooms come equipped with various lighting effects and sometimes disco balls, and tambourines are provided. For an extra fee you can go all out and rent wigs and costumes. You can also include a nomihodai option to your night, which means unlimited alcoholic drinks from the menu and juice bar. In Japan, karaoke can be a bit pricey, especially on weekends and in popular spots like Shinjuku and Shibuya. In order to save money, I suggest frequenting low-budget karaoke rooms in less popular areas (Meidaimae, that's right!), going on weeknights, and
I must say, I have a deep appreciation for the videos that are featured in the background of the lyrics: usually a rotation of four or five mini films, each depicting romantic scenes, such as bubble baths, couples contemplating a landscape, or Fabio-esque men driving motorcycles along the beach. I also suggest selecting the "plus-seven" option, which accelerates songs by well, seven times, as my friends Tom and Eloise discovered. You'll never go back to the regular kind.
Here are some of my most memorable nights out, featuring some pretty exquisite "karaoke faces". I hope my friends don't hate me for posting these.
|An unforgettable Osaka all-nighter:|
This was The Blue Hearts' "Linda Linda", a Japanese classic
|Best karaoke faces, The Mikes, circa Osaka.|
|Last Sunday in Meidaimae, flamenco stance by me,|
"Bailamos" vocals courtesy of Tom and Cate
|I'm better at dancing than singing|
|Eloise and Tom, perhaps a rendition of JLo's "Jenny from the Block"?|
The Beastie Boys always make it into my list.
|Prince performing his best, The Strokes' "Last Nite"|
|Oasis' "Wonderwall" is a nightcap, brings people together|
in harmony, over a chiseled man image
|This makes me a bit sad actually... the end of an era.|
|The time we drank tea at the Shimokitazawa karaoke,|
we felt so classy
|Fashimi and Tom|
|Sneaked snacks: Chocopie, and Mike soy sauce popcorn|