If you hadn’t heard (the name sort of gives it away) karaoke is sort of a big deal here. In Britain, where karaoke is mostly the province of the very bold and/or inebriated, it might be surprising to hear how common it is. Going out after school with friends? Karaoke. Work party? Karaoke. Missed the last train home? Ka-ra-oke.
The system is pretty straight forward. You get your room and call down to order food and drinks – there are often all-you-can-drink (nomihodai) offers – or extend your time. Just don’t plan on speaking much the next day if you really make the most of it!
Karaoke is by no means something that only the young enjoy. It definitely took me by surprise, seeing groups of suited-up business people ordering their karaoke room. Thinking about it though, there is so much more here for the older generations to do in terms of social activities. The feeling I get is that there is less pressure for adults here to take themselves so seriously (outside of work), unlike in the U.K. – especially for women. In a culture where self-expression is very different to that of western countries, there seems to be much less judgement when it comes to participation and silliness.
The way Japan caters to the older generation is perhaps to be expected with such a drastically ageing population. On top of this, the lingering expectations for women here mean that there are lots of activities geared towards attracting housewives.
Anyway, our karaoke trip consisted of: an accidental order of all the fries ever, a lot of Jamaican and Disney songs, as well as some karaoke classics from Ricky Martin, Vanessa Carlton, and The Killers. Needless to say, after a night of karaoke and a week of voice projecting in a summer-heat-sleepy class, by the next weekend I sounded like the local frogs.