Karaoke - is a portmanteau of two Japanese words - Kara (empty) and Oke (from Orchestra). Although the word is Japanese, whether or not this favorite pastime of many in Japan was invented here or not, is a matter of dispute till date. Some claim it was invented by a Japanese musician named Daisuke Inoue. There are others who claim that it were the Filipino musicians who migrated to Japan way back in 1960, who bought this form of music to the country. Well, for most of us who enjoy Karaoke, it does not matter much,does it? :)
My first experience with Karaoke was in the year 1999 when I was working as a trainee in Utsunomiya, Tochigi. Our Shacho (CEO of a company) had organized a company trip to Kinugawa Onsen, a famous hot spring resort in north eastern Japan.(In Japan, such company outings, at least a couple of times in an year, are pretty common).We stayed at the onsen resort for a night, about 20 of us, and had dinner at the resort restaurant which, as it turned out to be was a Karaoke restaurant. It had a stage which had a huge Karaoke system (player, screens, microphones,etc) placed on it. Each one of us took turns going on to the stage to sing various Japanese/English songs of our choice (we had to select from a list of pre-recorded songs that were displayed on the screen)
That was my first ever 'public performance' as a 'singer' :) .....a bathroom singer that I had been, it was not easy singing on the stage in front of such large 'audience'. I remember being very shy and it took quite some cajoling by my friend, also a fellow colleague, to convince me to go onto the stage. I was new in Japan that time and hardly knew any of the Japanese songs listed on the system screen. The only option I had was "hotel California" by eagles. Thankfully, I was an 'eagles' fan that time and knew the song well....and sing I did :) and it turned out to be a 'huge success'.....everybody loved it and asked me to sing again :)....not that i am a good singer...but the mood, the background music, (and thanks to the lot of noise of people screaming, shouting and singing along), it was a big hit ;)
Thereafter, that song became my "juhachiban' :) (Many karaoke singers have that one song which they are especially good at and which they use to show off their singing abilities :) - that is called their Juhachiban.)
Since then, I have been to a lot of Karaoke parties with friends and colleagues and am kinda getting better each time :) In fact, as I mentioned above, it is one of the most popular past times in Japan. There are Karaoke bars/parlors/restaurants all over the country, which usually have a private room fully equipped with a karaoke player, screen and microphones. The rooms are available in all sizes, from rooms meant for two people to large party rooms, where you can go with your family and friends to enjoy Karaoke. You can even order food and drinks inside the room. The rate is around 1000-1500 yen/person/per hour and sometimes comes with an all you can eat/drink deals.
Karaoke appeals to people of all ages and status. It is a good way to relax and de-stress after a hectic work day, a perfect way to enjoy with friends and is also a great icebreaker when you go with a new group of friends, or colleagues (like it proved to be for mine) ....and last but not the least - you get to become a 'pop idol', even if it is only for a few hours ;)
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