Photo Credit: perke@flickr
Karaoke has been around since the 1960s albeit in a very different form than what we know today. Modern karaoke started when a karaoke machine was invented sometime in the 1970s. Although it is not clear who invented it, we can say for certain that it was a Japanese invention.
In the beginning, karaoke machines were designed for commercial use in bars and clubs. However, in the 90s, karaoke as a home theater system began to take off. In the west, karaoke is often pronounced “Karee-o-kee” and is done on a stage in a bar setting.
Photo Credit: Morten Skogly@flickr
In Japan, it is quite different. We have private rooms so you can spare yourself the embarrassment. Westerners often describe these as karaoke box. Karaoke is a great activity to do in groups or even by yourself. There are many different karaoke companies in Japan. But they all offer the same things more or less. They differ in price, food menu, and overall design, but they all offer good songs to sing to.
Photo Credit: Dick Thomas Johnson@flickr
Japanese karaoke machines are really amazing. Even though originally, you had to read through a thick catalog to find a song, modern karaoke box is equipped with one or two digital karaoke remote control.
This controller allows you to search by genre, artist name, song title, most popular, and you can even see what songs the previous person sang. Of course you can change the language settings too, most places offer English, Chinese and Korean instead of Japanese. Depending on what kind of controller you get, you can do so much more. For example, ordering food, changing volume and echo, and playing mini games are all possibilities.
Photo Credit: Bernat Agullo@flickr
If you are shy about singing and need a little bit of liquid courage, most places serve alcohol (you must be 20 years or older in Japan). Karaoke in Japan is special because of all the extra features. You have the option to score yourself and see how well you sing, you can sin along with your favorite music videos (not every song has a music video), and you can even track how many calories you burn after a song.
If you are in Japan, it is definitely worth going to karaoke. It is convenient, affordable, and a great cultural experience. If you try once, you will see why this is such a popular activity in Japan.