Did you know that karaoke actually originated in Japan, though it might be very different from the version in your country? Nonetheless, karaoke is popular across the country as a place where you can de-stress by singing (or howling) into the mic while enjoying good food!
Instead of singing publicly on stage at a bar, spots for karaoke in Japan usually come with private entertainment spaces for a groups of friends or even singles. Karaoke is one of the best things to do in Tokyo. It’s a sanctuary where salarymen loosen their ties and let go of worries, and also a popular pastime for youngsters to relieve stress from studying and entertain themselves.
Ready to learn more about karaoke in Japan? Scroll down to see our recommendations for the best places for karaoke in Tokyo!
How Does Karaoke Work in Japan?
The procedure might vary in different shops, but in general, there are 5 steps as follows.
- Go to Reception
- Choose Songs Using a Tablet
- Order Food & Drinks
- Sing & Customize
- Check Out
1. Go to Reception
First, you will be greeted by the staff at reception. Don’t freak out when they throw Japanese at you—many staff in Tokyo speak basic English. You will be asked to fill in a simple form to write down the number of people and choose the time, room, and course (free time v.s. limited time, one drink v.s. all-you-can-drink, etc).
Generally, the price is charged per person, while there are different prices for different schedules. For example, the price in the evening is higher than at other times of day, while weekends and public holidays will cost more than normal weekdays.
After submitting the form, you will be guided to your karaoke room. Some stores will provide a translated guide to aid you in using the karaoke facilities.
2. Choose Songs Using a Tablet
There are two dominant brands of karaoke song-selecting systems in Japan, LiveDam and Joysound, depending on the stores you visit. Some stores provide both of them while others only have one specific brand.
For both LiveDam and Joysound, the machine is operated by using the control tablet running on the easy-to-use Android OS system. Most of them are available in different languages, so don’t worry if you can’t read Japanese. If you have chosen a foreign language, the lyrics of Japanese songs will be displayed in both Japanese and romaji (the Roman alphabet). For Joysound, you can even connect it with your smartphone.
In terms of the song library, Joysound might have more anime and foreign language songs, while LiveDAM is the perfect choice for those who prefer watching live-action music videos that feature Japanese artists.
3. Order Food & Drinks
If you didn’t choose a course that includes refreshments, don’t worry about getting hungry in the middle of your karaoke session, as you can always order them with the remote or phone. There will be a menu on the table inside the room. If you’ve chosen the nomihoudai all-you-can-drink course, you can refill your beverage at the drinks bar outside.
4. Sing & Customize
Using the tablet, you can customize the karaoke settings according to your preferences, including the volume of songs and microphone, mic reverb, etc. In some shops, you can also adjust the room lighting for different atmospheres, sometimes the light will change according to the song rhythms, too!
Don’t forget to try out some unique features of karaoke in Japan, such as the exciting scoring function that analyzes your singing performance and gives you a rating, and the video function that allows you to keep a record of your fabulous singing (and perhaps, dancing) act.
While you are not singing, you can use the provided percussion instruments to cheer along with the singer, another element of the tradition of karaoke in Japan.
5. Check Out
Finally, leave the room when your time is up and pay at the reception desk.
Best Karaoke Bars in Tokyo
You’ll see karaoke bars in every corner of Tokyo, especially the country-wide franchises like Karaoke Kan and BIG ECHO. However, if you are seeking a more special experience, check out the following unique karaoke spots in Tokyo!
- Karaoke Kan from Lost in Translation
- Rainbow Karaoke
- Studio Himawari
- Pasela Resorts
- Big O Karaoke
1. Karaoke Kan from Lost in Translation
Being one of the ubiquitous karaoke chains in Tokyo, this Karaoke Kan store in Udagawacho is not just an ordinary branch - it has become famous among film lovers since its appearance in the famous American movie, Lost in Translation. Rooms 601 and 602 are where Bill Murray and Scarlett Johannson sang “More Than This” and “Brass in Pocket,” among other songs (the former room includes a window view). The two rooms are located in the annex building so don’t mistake it with the similar-looking main building nearby!
2. Rainbow Karaoke
Have a rock 'n roll spirit that normal karaoke can’t satisfy? Visit Rainbow Karaoke, a live house-themed karaoke room located in the heart of Shibuya! There are drums, guitars, basses, keyboards, and other instruments in the room, ready for a live rock concert. Not everyone (or every band) has the chance to have their own live house concert; a visit to this Tokyo karaoke spot could fulfill your dream!
3. Studio Himawari
Unlike typical Japanese karaoke places, Studio Himawari is more like the kind you find in the U.S. and Europe, where people sing and mingle with each other. Located in Kabukicho, at this independent-running karaoke snack bar, you can sing alongside live musical instruments such as electric guitars, saxophones, and drums. The husband-wife owners are highly praised for their outstanding skills and friendliness.
Too shy to sing in front of other people, even your closest friends? In Tokyo, there's no need to be ashamed of being a loner! These days, shops designated for solo customers have become a trend in Japan, and now 1Kara is the perfect karaoke place for those who prefer enjoying their alone time!
Free yourself from the judgment of your friends as you sing as you like in a completely isolated room. It is surely the most stress-free karaoke experience. There is even a “ladies-only” area for female customers to feel more safe and secure.
5. Pasela Resorts
Located in the famous otaku area Akihabara, Pasela Resorts is the best karaoke spot in Tokyo for fans of Japanese anime and games. Collaborating with popular anime and games including CAPCOM, Final Fantasy, and Kamen Rider, there are well-decorated themed karaoke bars and cafes in this karaoke place.
If you have a sweet tooth, one of the highlights is the dessert menu, offering a huge honey toast with different kinds of sweet toppings. It is also a popular spot to celebrate special occasions like birthdays and year-end parties, as it has party rooms and a menu to accommodate a large group of people.
6. Big O Karaoke
Singing Karaoke on a Ferris wheel in the middle of Tokyo—I’m not kidding, this is a real thing you can experience in the Tokyo Dome City Amusement Park! Collaborating with the Joysound karaoke chain, there are 8 special gondolas that allow a maximum of 4 passengers in each passenger car, allowing you to choose from a list of 50 classic pop songs and sing during the 15-minute ride. Have the most unique karaoke experience in the world on the Big O Ferris wheel in Tokyo!
After reading all about karaoke, are you excited to try it out during your trip to Japan? Don’t worry about fitting this fun activity into your tight schedule—karaoke mostly operates 24/7, so it is an ideal rest point for when you get tired of traveling and sightseeing, or an alternative to pubs and bars when you think it’s still too early to get to bed. Enjoy the Japanese (and English) songs and foods the way the Japanese do, at karaoke!
Need to refuel after your karaoke sesh? Browse food experiences in Tokyo!