Karaoke

I’ve become quite a fan of karaoke. Some people inexplicably like to sing on a karaoke stage, where you sing on a stage in front of everyone else in the place, but I prefer the karaoke box, where you and your friends pile into a private room to sing, eat and drink. At some places, you can also hire instruments (such as tambourines, maracas, and cacophonous fake electric guitars). These can be useful for drowning out particularly grating singers.

The selection of songs is generally huge. There are tens of thousands of Japanese songs and thousands of English songs, as well as Chinese, Korean, French, and other languages. Everyone sings Japanese or English when I go, but it’s always good to throw in an ’80s German pop song from time to time.

It’s a bit distressing how many people regress to the late ’70s or early ’80s when they get behind the mic, even people who are young enough to know better. Queen’s ’70s epic “Bohemian Rhapsody” is a favourite for karaoke hilarity because of all the funny voices you can use, and for the Wayne’s World-style headbanging bit in the middle.

Word of the day: karaoke. Like many newer Japanese words, “karaoke” is essentially an abbreviation. “kara” means “empty”, and “oke” is short for “okesutora” from the English “orchestra”. So music without singing = empty orchestra = karaoke. Similarly, “te” means “hand”, so unarmed combat = empty hand = “karate”.

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