Karaoke in Japan – Survival Guide
A handy guide for foreigners who want to try Karaoke in Japan. What is Karaoke? How do I set up Karaoke? Where to go for Karaoke? - all these questions answered.
What is Karaoke?
The word “Karaoke” (カラオケ) is a combination of “kara” / 空 which means empty and “oke” / “オケ” which stands for orchestra / オーケストラ. Go to Karaoke to sing with friends and family or alone.
The first Karaoke machines were created in 1971 by Daisuke Inoue and named “8 Juke.” Though these machines were simple, with only 8 tracks costing 100 yen each, they became extremely popular in Japan during the 1980s, later spreading to other countries in Asia and the United States. Nowadays, Karaoke is an entertainment staple across the world.
Karaoke in Japan is fun, reasonably priced and very common. Therefore, Karaoke is one of the easiest ways for you to gain some hands-on experience of Japanese culture. If you’ve never been to Karaoke and don’t want to embarrass yourself, don’t worry, this article will provide you with all information you’re going to need.
How do I set up Karaoke?
Once you enter a Karaoke shop, you will be greeted by the staff at reception. You will be asked how many people are in your party and how long you want to stay. After a registration process, the staff will give you a bill showing your room number, entrance time and some instructions. If you want the drinks bar option inform the staff who will either direct you to a self-service drinks bar or take your order. Some places also offer cosplay (Adores, Joysound) and instrument (tambourine, guitar, maracas) rental. Inquire to the staff should you be interested.
Inside each room, there are normally 2 microphones, a couch, tables, the karaoke system (speakers, amplifiers), a control pad, an internal telephone and a TV. The amplifiers allow you to easily adjust the volume of the music or to plug in a rental guitar. Sometimes, your room may even have a stage and a standing microphone!
The control pads are quite bulky, are controlled by stylus or touch screen and are mostly in Japanese. Sometimes, you can change the language display to English, making life easier if you’re new to Japanese.
However, even if there isn’t this option, the control pad is quite straightforward. These are some common Japanese words on the control pad that may be useful for you: 歌手名 (singer’s name), 曲名 (song title), 歌いだし (the first lyric sentence of that song), 割込予約 (to choose the song to cut in the queue), 予約 or 転送 (to choose and queue the song), もどり / 戻り (to return), 演奏停止 (to cancel or skip the current song). There are a considerable amount of songs to choose from so you’d better keep a list of song titles in your mind before going to Karaoke. In case you cannot remember any song titles, you can check and choose songs from a list of the most recent chosen songs or a list of the most popular songs on that particular control pad.
Songs are usually up-to-date and available in four languages: Japanese, English, Chinese and Korean. Sometimes, songs in other languages like Tagalog or Vietnamese are also available. Once your chosen song starts, all you have to do is pick up the microphone, follow the lyrics displayed on the screen, sing and dance! Sometimes, the calories you burnt while you were singing and your singing score are displayed on the screen which is a nice touch.
At any time, you can use the in-room telephone to talk to the staff at the counter if you encounter any problems or if you want to order more food and drink. When your allotted is almost up (about 5-15 minutes before the end), the staff will also call you through this telephone to let you know. At this point, you can also choose to extend your session should you be enjoying yourself. However, this is dependent on the space available at that time.
Where to go for Karaoke?
In Japan, you can occasionally find karaoke boxes in bars, restaurants and festivals but it is not particularly common. So, where can you go for Karaoke? This is easy. There are so many Karaoke chains everywhere, among which the most well-known are Karaoke-kan, Big Echo, Adores, Joysound, Shidax and Round1.
1. Karaoke-kan (カラオケ館)
Rooms: Karaoke-kan has a wide range of room sizes, from small (10 people) to big (up to 63 people).
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and whether you are a member or not. The price for evenings is higher than during the day, weekends are more expensive than weekdays and prices for non-members are higher than those for members. The fare is calculated in 30-minute blocks and is approximately 100-200 yen per 30 minutes on weekdays, 400-500 yen on weekends and 1,500-2,500 yen for free time. Free time is from 11pm to 5am.
Location: Karaoke-kan stores are located all over Japan. Detailed store locations in each area can be found here.
2. Big Echo (ビッグエコー)
Rooms: Big Echo has rooms with dual projectors and various types of concept rooms .
Menu: The menu can be found here. Big Echo offers family and party courses for 2,000 yen per person.
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and whether you are a member or not. Calculated in 30-minute blocks with membership and student discounts. During the day each block costs 100-480 yen on weekdays and 100-660 yen on weekends. Big Echo also offers 3-hour packs for 580-1,000 yen and a free time (11:00 pm-5:00 am) pack for 980-2,600 yen. Drinks bar is available as well. If you go to Karaoke alone, the price will be slightly different from when you go with a group.
Location: Big Echo stores are located all over Japan. Detailed store locations can be found here.
3. Adores (アドアーズ)
Rooms: Adores not only provides customers with free costume rental but also several unique concept rooms (Princess room, Gothic room, or Live Stage room) in its Akihabara store. Rooms in Adores can generally fit 2-15 people.
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and is calculated in 30 minutes blocks with membership and senior discounts (customers over 60 years old). During the day, each block costs 68-388 yen on weekdays and 128-468 yen on weekends. Free time (11:00 pm-6:00 am) costs 980-2,830 yen. If you want drinks bar (soft drinks and alcohol) you will have to pay an extra amount. Guitar (300 yen) and costumes (free) are available for rental in the Akihabara store.
Rooms: The size of Joysound rooms differs from store to store.
Menu: Joysound’s menu has a variety of different food, snacks and desserts. The detailed menu can be found here.
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and is calculated in 30-minute blocks with membership, student and senior discounts (customers over 60 years old). Each block costs 250-500 yen during daytime and 250-500 yen during nighttime. Joysound also offers several free time options: 11:00 am-6:00 pm, 3:00 pm-8:00 pm, 6:00 pm-5:00 am and 11:00 pm-5:00 am for a very reasonable price. Joysound has guitar rental and free rental costumes for adults (male & female) as well as for kids in some of its stores.
Location: Joysound stores are located all over Japan. Detailed store locations in each area can be found here.
5. Shidax (シダックス)
Rooms: Shidax has rooms of different styles: Japanese rooms, special rooms with elegant interiors, party rooms fitting up to 40 people, rooms for people who have pets as well as free space for kids. Click here for details.
Menu: Shidax is a combination restaurant and karaoke combination, so the quality of the food served here is far superior to other stores. A course of 6 different dishes is available for 3,800 yen and a course of 4 dishes is available for 1,800 yen per person. The detailed menu can be found here.
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and is calculated in 30-minute blocks with membership, student and senior discounts (customers over 60 years old). Each block costs 150-400 yen during weekdays and 200-450 yen during weekends. Drinks bar is available.
Location: Shidax stores are located all over Japan. Detailed store locations in each area can be found here.
6. Round1 (ラウンドワン)
Rooms: Round1 is a sports and entertainment center offering a range of sporting activities and Karaoke. Rooms range from small to mid-size.
Menu: Round1’s menu is quite similar to any other Karaoke stores. The detailed menu can be found here.
Price: The price varies depending on the store, the time, the date and is calculated in 30 minutes blocks with membership, student and senior discounts (customers over 60 years old). Each block costs 200-330 yen during weekdays and 220-400 yen during weekends. Round1 has various free time options: opening time to 12:00 am, 12:00 am-6:00 pm, 6:00 pm-8:00 pm, 8:00 pm-12:00 pm, 12:00 pm to close. Choose the Spo-cha (スポッチャ) option for access to all kinds of sports, arcade games AND Karaoke.
Location: Round1 stores are located all over Japan. Detailed store locations in each area can be found here.