These are some of the typical Japanese stereotypes; people are always polite, hard-working, and tend to hide their emotions. But obviously these aren’t always true, and you might be surprised when you see a Japanese person singing their heart out in front of his/her peer – in a karaoke box.
Karaoke, a culture that originates in Japan, is now popular across borders. The term karaoke comes from the word kara, which means empty or vacant in Japanese, and the English word orchestra. It used to be a term that describes a pre-recorded tape of a band/orchestra, and today it is known as the culture or activity of singing over an instrumental tune, in a private box.
The Karaoke culture was not always in the form that it is in today. People used to sing at bars and restaurants while having a meal, or more often while drinking. The act of singing was not the main purpose here, and more of a way to lighten up the mood. The Karaoke box known today became popular during the 80s, and this was a big turn for the culture since in the karaoke box, you sing, and that is most likely to be your sole purpose to go there. Hence, the introduction of karaoke boxes spread the culture to youths and teenagers, as it had fewer ties with alcohol.
Although karaoke is still a common way for people to socialize and have fun with their friends, families, and co-workers, a growing number of people go to karaoke alone. This is called hitokara (short for hitori-karaoke meaning alone karaoke), and the activity is also recognized as a way to release stress or just to embrace your alone time. Some people stay up all night in karaoke boxes to sing. You might be thinking how sad that is. But many enjoy how liberating this experience is, and you should have it a go while you’re staying in Japan. Heading there with a crowd is also going to be exciting.
The Karaoke culture also plays a significant role in the music industry. There is even a music chart that ranks the songs that are most played in karaoke boxes. The interesting fact here is that this does not at all reflect other pop music charts. Although some new pop songs do rank high, it’s very common for the main theme of a movie or a song released several years back to be on the top, and many of them manage to stay there.
Now that you have read this, go add ‘karaoke’ to your list of things to do in Japan. It’s ok if you don’t know any Japanese songs because you can also choose songs in other languages, and there are quite a variety of them. It’s also a good place to go if you happen to make friends in Japan since music is a universal language!
written by Sion