Tuesday, 8 January 2008

Japanese Karaoke

Pass any number of local clubs or bars on any given night in Japan, and you
will no doubt hear the off key refrain of people participating in one of the
countries all time favorite activities: karaoke. Although there are
conflicting reports on how this popular form of recreation came about, most
people agree that it most likely began in Kobe in the early 1970's, when a
popular singer by the name of Daisuke Inoue introduced the concept after being
asked frequently by guests to provide a recording of his performances they
could sing along with on company sponsored vacations. Realizing the potential,
Inoue developed a karaoke machine that played background music of his most
popular songs for the price of 100 yen. Originally regarded as a fad which
lacked the atmosphere of a live performance, Inoue leased his machines to
stores instead of selling them outright. As the form of entertainment
gradually became more popular, karaoke machines were eventually placed in
restaurants and hotel rooms. Unfortunately Inoue never bothered to patent his
invention, and lost his chance at becoming one of Japan's richest men when
Roberto del Rosario, a Filipino inventor, secured the patent in 1983 for his
sing along system referred to as Minus-One. The first karaoke machines on the
market used cassette tapes, which were later replaced with CD's, VCD's,
Laserdiscs, and currently DVDs.

The most well known venue for Karaoke in Japan to date are known as
“karaoke boxes”, small or medium sized sound proof rooms equipped with
microphones and a video karaoke machine which can be rented by the hour,
providing a more intimate atmosphere for a couple or group seeking privacy.
Rooms vary in size and style, with seats usually placed along the sides with a
table in the middle that can be used for placing food and drinks ordered by
phone to the staff located in the main reception area. The massive songbook
provided for each room offers a wide range of tunes, the majority of them in
Japanese. There are also many British and American songs available as well
including the Beatles, which are always a favorite among the Japanese. Singing within
the group can sometimes take on a competitive edge, with some karaoke machines
rating your performance based on how closely you resemble the original tune.
Another popular but more expensive alternative to the karaoke box is the
Karaoke Bar, which is often a favorite night spot for Japanese businessmen who drop
in after work with colleagues to have a drink and to enjoy singing songs to
the accompaniment of a karaoke machine.

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