If you are learning a foreign language, like Japanese, going to karaoke is good way to get practice. Or maybe it’s not. Maybe I’m just thinking that because I’d rather faff off to karaoke and sing Arashi songs than do real study – but then again, if I wasn’t doing that, I’d just be faffing off playing spider solitaire or posting on facebook anyway so at least I’m doing something, right.
I think this would work for any Asian language since there seems to be a huge amount of Asian songs available. If you are studying a non-Asian language, like say Bulgarian, you might be out of luck. Or maybe there are a heap of Bulgarian karaoke boxes that I just don’t know about.
I’m sure most people realise that Japanese karaoke is different to what you get in Australia (and other Western countries). You don’t get up in a bar and sing in front of a bunch of strangers but get your own room.
Anyway, later I’ve been going to karaoke a lot and these are my tips to get the most from your karaoke experience.
- Don’t feel lame because you are going to the karaoke alone. Sure it’s more fun to go with a bunch of friends. Even better if alcohol is involved – because everyone knows drinking makes you sing better. But heaps of people here go to karaoke alone. If you go to a karaoke place in the afternoon, the rooms are full of businessmen practicing on their own (this is why Japanese people work such long hours – because they spend the afternoon buggerising around at the karaoke box). Going on your own means you can repeat the same song until you get the tricky bits right, without anyone wanting to stab you with a fork.
- In Japan, you'll obviously need to speak a bit of Japanese to book your room. The main questions they ask are how many people, how long you want the room for and which system you want - DAM or Joysound. Sometimes they'll just get you to write it all down.
- Occasionally, they'll want a phone number, and being a tourist, you won't have one. Just tell them that. Even rarer, they'll want to see ID like your passport (this seems to be common in Sapporo but I've never had it happen anywhere else).
- They'll also talk a lot of jibber jabber. Just agree. Okay, maybe this has gotten me into trouble but usually not.
- Also, they might ask if you want drink bar or one drink order. That's all in katakana so you should be able to work it out. I usually go for the one drink order because if you get the drink bar (help yourself drinks) and you are on your own, you have to leave your room and take all your valuables with you. Do not leave your valuables in the room.
- Look for the smaller karaoke places. The major karaoke chain in Japan is Big Echo. They are a total rip off. I went there for 2 hours and it cost around 2,000 yen. I went to a small no-name karaoke place and it was 500 yen – with a free (non-alcoholic) drink bar. No more Big Echo for me.
- Make a playlist. If you are singing in a foreign language, it can be hard to navigate the song list (most karaoke places have a touch pad) especially since the names can be in kanji or katakana or hiragana with no logic to the system. Also the Japanese alphabet is kinda weird. I’ve not gone with a song list yet but I want to do it next time rather than punching in a bunch of random songs and hoping for the best.
- Put on a dud song to start. When you are on your own, it’s too hard to try to sing and pick a bunch of song. Instead put on a song you don’t really care about and spend that time loading up the machine.
- Two hours seems to me to be the optimal time for karaoke singing. It takes me about half hour to get over the ‘OMG, people walking past the room can hear me singing out of tune in bad Japanese’ phobia. One hour is not nearly enough time to get settled in, pick your songs and get relaxed. Plus, they phone you about 10 minutes before your time is up and that puts you out of whack.
- If you want to do more than two hours, ask about "free time". Usually you can get 6 or 8 hours for a set price.