I would like to give credit where credit is due. Videos are from YouTube and other sources such as NicoNico while Oricon rankings and other information are translated from the Japanese Wikipedia unless noted.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Karaoke Kan in Shinjuku
Well, I figure if I'm blogging under the title of "Kayo Kyoku Plus", it was just a matter of time that I would have to refer to another KK, that of Karaoke Kan(カラオケ館). Karaoke Kan is one of the handful of major karaoke box chains all over Japan, along with SHIDAX, Big Echo and Uta Hiroba. When I first got into karaoke by going with my university buddies to karaoke bar Kuri in Yorkville back in the late 80s, making a request involved filling out a small slip of paper with the song title and registry number found from a telephone directory-sized book. Then when I was assigned to the wilds of Gunma Prefecture for 2 years from 1989-1991, the teachers were always taking me to the local karaoke bars out there. I was never a huge fan of singing in front of strangers, but I did my due diligence and picked up a couple of juu-hachi-ban(十八番) numbers...songs that I would always rely on to say that I did participate: Ikuzo Yoshi's Yukiguni and Takashi Hosokawa's Kita Sakaba, enka songs that have their own entries in this blog.

So, it was with some relief that late in my Gunma stay, some students and I found a karaoke motel of sorts way out in the boonies. It was just like a real motel...rooms side-by-side with cars parked in front of them where we could sing amongst friends or colleagues for 1-2 hours. It was the start of the transition into karaoke boxes.

And so during my long odyssey in Chiba/Tokyo, students, fellow teachers and I have often centered our social outings in these huge glass-and-steel buildings in places like Shinjuku, Ginza and Ikebukuro. It's almost a shame to call them karaoke boxes since they are far more elaborate than that second word.

Everybody Wang Chung tonight!

A couple of my former colleagues at that Karaoke Kan in Shinjuku one Saturday night. Along with the microphones, every respectable karaoke suite must have one or two tambourines....perhaps in tribute to Davy Jones of the Monkees. Yes, there is nothing like the ringing of tuneless bells to enhance that rendition of "Stairway to Heaven".

To the right is the lobby of Karaoke Kan down on the ground level. In keeping with the hotel-like atmosphere, it does look like check-in time. Most of the folks going there are the young'uns but the older generation also stops by to keep the kayo kyoku alive.
A typical menu in a karaoke box has lots and lots of fried food. A nutritionist wouldn't be caught dead here although a lot of karaoke veterans could be. Onion rings, karaage fried chicken,'s a veritable smorgasbord of excess. After eating this stuff, you'll be dying to sing that languid Anzen Chitai ballad.

"Picard to Engineering"

I think I mentioned in my karaoke bar days, the  song list was about as thick as The Yellow Pages. Well, not anymore in Japan. Now, touchpads are the thing. Just use the plastic stylus to tap to your favourite song or even use one's stubby, greasy (from the karaage) fingers to get that obscure anime tune. One can also control the pitch of the song with the touchpad and perhaps even add vocal effects such as an echo or vocal gender-switching. Fantasize about being that Takarazuka Revue Top Star? Fantasize no more.

Probably the strangest karaoke experience I'd ever had was at The Big Echo in Yurakucho, just north of Ginza. I think a small bunch of us had celebrated a graduation party and we decided on singing a few tunes for a couple of hours. Since it was a Saturday, The Big Echo was nearly booked solid so we ended up on the 7th floor, which was totally dedicated to Hello Kitty! Ironically, the world's most famous mute cat loudly made her presence known all over the walls, floors and doors of the 7th floor. Even the mikes were pasted with her visage. If there were a place to have a psychotic break...

I think the one of the reasons that kayo kyoku still has its place in Japanese society is because of karaoke. Every time a song like "Hatsukoi"or "Cat's Eye"is sung, it is remembered. And because it is remembered, it is sung. Now that I'm back in Toronto, my access to karaoke is pretty much nil since it never really took hold in North America. But then again, my karaoke outings dissipated in my last few years in Japan since a lot of my friends around me at that time would have needed to be zapped by an overpowered cattle prod to be forced into a karaoke box.  Mind you, in certain areas of Shinjuku, being zapped by an overpowered cattle prod is actually an  alternative activity.

Found this video on YouTube of a group of people around my age enjoying themselves in some karaoke box. Not sure if this is Karaoke Kan or SHIDAX, but the point is that it's a typical scene of folks singing their favorite tunes off-tune while fiddling with the touchpads, eating away at their starches or negotiating with the waitress. Heck, even "My Way"is in there. Watch it the whole way through, if you dare. 

The room kinda looks like a briefing room on the new Enterprise.

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