1. Anzen Chitai & Yosui Inoue -- Natsu no Owari no Harmony
Yep, my humble beginnings in picking up a microphone and singing to that empty orchestra resided with this ballad. It was just the perfect duet for a couple of fairly pickled undergraduates to try out at a time when neither guy was willing to go it alone. Lack of talent was no barrier for us...especially when alcohol was coursing through our veins.
Basically my career in amassing a karaoke repertoire was a matter of trial and error. Gradually, I developed some basic rules in picking a song which I thought I could handle:
A: A nice even melody without any shifts in key.
B: Lyrics that didn't require me to leaf through a kanji dictionary many times.
C: No demand for vocal gymnastics (therefore, Kazumasa Oda and Dreams Come True were out)
2. Ikuzo Yoshi -- Yukiguni
When I finally graduated from U of T in 1989 and got on that plane for Japan to start my teaching career in Gunma Prefecture, trips to karaoke bars became more of a professional demand. After all, the various official dinner functions always required the nijikai（二次会...second party）which often meant a visit to drinking establishments armed with karaoke equipment. I found Ikuzo Yoshi's "Yukiguni" to be fine with me since it fulfilled those 3 rules above, and in a way, it represented The Great White North.
Singing this dozens of times over the years, I was finally able to develop that deep growl that enka singers use to launch the title in the refrain...often got some applause for that.
3. Saburo Tokito -- Kawa no Nagare wo Daite Nemuritai
Mysteriously, I never mentioned in the original article for this bluesy ballad that I had first heard it on "Sounds of Japan". That piano that starts things off had me right there. One time at a karaoke box, I was leafing furiously through the thick tome of the listings when that song suddenly percolated up through my memories. I hadn't thought I would find it but sure enough it was right in there, so I decided to give it a try. Strangely enough, it worked out pretty well although none of my compadres that night knew the song at all. They were quite impressed that it was Tokito who sang it since they (and most other people) knew him just as an actor.
4. Takashi Hosokawa - Kita Sakaba
During those Gunma days, I was giving the aforementioned "Yukiguni" quite the workout so the guys knew my go-to song. However, being the demanding folks they were, they wanted another song from me, so somehow I went with another tune that I had first heard on "Sounds of Japan", the jaunty "Kita Sakaba". This song by Hosokawa is perfect for a lot of the older karaoke-going group to get all cheered up and clapping. And for some reason, the order gets to the front desk for more beer afterwards. "Kita Sakaba" became my Commander Will Riker to the Captain Picard of my "Yukiguni".
5. Yumi Matsutoya -- Blizzard
Unlike "Yukiguni", I didn't pick Yuming's "Blizzard" because it had some sort of connection with Canada (last year's Ice Storm aside). I just liked singing it because it sounded good to me (love the dramatic intro) and the three rules were once again met. Yuming's voice may have already become quite high even back then, but I still could get through it in a lower register.
Believe me, there were many others I've tried and succeeded/failed at. But the above are the ones that were my juu-hachi-ban (my go-to tunes). Perhaps some of the other collaborators can clue us in on their karaoke likes.
Also, you can take a look at my article on karaoke in general which I wrote back in April 2012.
And finally, you can take a look at the five that I failed miserably at.