The Best Karaoke Bars in Tokyo

The futuristic neighbourhood of Akihabara is the heart of Tokyos J-Pop scene
The futuristic neighbourhood of Akihabara is the heart of Tokyo's J-Pop scene | © Sean Pavone / Alamy Stock Photo
Alicia Joy

Tokyo Writer

Historically it was a tradition in Japan to entertain guests with music. And a wordless backing track has long been a boon for professional singers who can’t always access a full cast of performers. Add a national penchant for innovation and entertainment, and the result? Karaoke – a mashup of the words kara and oukesutora, ’empty’ and ‘orchestra’. When you’re busting to get in touch with your inner Japanese superstar and sing your heart out in Tokyo, here are the best karaoke bars in which to show off your (lack of) talent.

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1. 1Kara

Music Venue

Throwing the social aspect of karaoke out the window, 1Kara takes a different approach with booths for one. For nervous first-timers, it’s the perfect place to practise before your next party. Seasoned singer? Nothing is more therapeutic than belting out your favourite tunes without worrying if the neighbours are suffering. A basic booth will set you back around 800 yen an hour on weekdays and 900 yen on weekends, with luxury upgrades available. Headphones are used instead of speakers – if you forget yours, rentals are available for a 300 yen fee.

2. Karaoke Kan

Bar, Nightclub, Pub Grub, Japanese

The signature red and blue neon sign of a Karaoke-Kan location, a famous chain of karaoke establishments in Japan
© Eric Dodson / Alamy Stock Photo
Karaoke Kan is a popular chain with branches in the main entertainment districts in Tokyo. The deal includes all-you-can-drink deals until dawn, hence its popularity with everyone from students and housewives to salarymen and expats. Choose from a selection of rooms, from basic to VIP and large party rooms – the ones in Kabukicho can accommodate 60-plus. Prices change from day to night, weekday to weekend, and branch to branch, from around 80 yen every 30 minutes by day to 600 yen after dark on the weekend. One drink order minimum is required.

3. Amour Bar & Karaoke

Bar, French

With low, louche red lighting, big mirrors and the occasional clink of romantic champagne glasses, Amour represents a quiet, private alternative to the usual boisterous and beer-rinsed karaoke scene in Tokyo. The establishment only has four small rooms, which are perfect for low-key karaoke parties. They still wear as a badge of pride the fact that Lady Gaga was a customer here in 2012. Did she belt out a few Madonna tracks? Alas, we’ll never know.

4. Studio Himawari

Bar, Pub, Snack Bar, Fast Food, Japanese

Squirrelled away in the party-perfect Kabukicho quarter, this snack bar aims to have you singing to the sounds of live electric guitar – and whatever other instruments the owners happen to have lying around. Studio Himawari offers its karaoke sessions for 3,000 yen, which includes snacks and tea, while alcoholic drinks begin at a reasonable 500 yen. The studio is open until 7am, making it popular with other bar staff who work in the neighbourhood. Closed on Wednesdays.

5. Uta Hiroba

Bar, Japanese

For the faint-hearted the decor may verge on the gaudy, but you should understand that Uta Hiroba is all about the music. And it won’t distract singers from the wide selection of music available – cringe-inducing Disney tracks included. Prices are not that different from competing branches like Karaoke Kan, starting at 240 yen for 60 minutes by day in the week, and from 700 yen by night on the weekend. The popularity of this place endures because what you get from the bar is included in the price – and often that makes all the difference.

6. Pasela Resorts

Bar, Restaurant, Japanese

Shibuya district street in downtown city with sign and colorful modern architecture with shopping stores shops
© Kristina Blokhin / Alamy Stock Photo
Pasela Resorts karaoke and restaurant is a haven for otaku – kids excessively preoccupied with manga and anime. After all, it is known to collaborate with franchises. But expats are also attracted here for the selection of foreign songs, contributing to the popularity of the karaoke bar. The party rooms are perfect for birthdays and other private occasions, thanks to Pasela’s extensive menu, which includes things like honey toast – a large, toasted sweet bread square dressed like a cake.

7. Glam

Nightclub, Bar, Cocktails

Roppongi is known for its energetic nightlife scene, expat-filled bars and clubs, which means karaoke. Glam is, as far as karaoke bars go, very glam – with its velvet-effect throw cushions, moody lighting, cigar menu and a fine wine list including expensive Bordeaux. With just five rooms, the service is top-notch too – and very discreet. The catch? It’s members only, so you’ll have to find some new Tokyo-based friends to help you make it past the door.

8. Karat

Bar, Nightclub, Cocktails

In upmarket Ginza, home to fashion emporiums and wallet-draining sushi bars, Karat is different from your average Japanese karaoke bar. Whereas most hire out private rooms, where you sing along to a pre-recorded soundtrack with your own group of friends, Karat is karaoke as you see it in the films: a concert-style setting seating up to 50, with a live band that will play along to obscure requests. Brilliant for wannabe superstars, less so for shrinking violets.

9. Bruce

Bar, Nightclub, Cocktails

While many Tokyo karaoke bars have a selection of English songs, you’ll often find that the more niche artists or hits aren’t available – after all, they’re catering primarily for a Japanese audience. But the tables are turned at Bruce, specialists in English karaoke, and with more than 50,000 songs to browse, you’re bound to find a tune you’re keen to belt out. Tucked in among the popular izakaya bars of Shimbashi, the location is convenient for a night out, too.

10. Diamond Bar

Bar, Nightclub, Cocktails

Shinjuku’s party quarter, Kabukicho, is the place to pick if you want to sing late into the night. And Diamond Bar is a friendly, affordable place to do it. Bring along a couple of friends, order a round of saké or frothing draft bi-ru (beer) from the bar and line up your favourite tunes. If you get peckish, you can dart to any one of the many local conbini (convenience stores) to grab a quick snack.

For more inspiration, discover why you need to visit Tokyo’s cat town or check out films that will make you fall in love with the city.

Ellie Hurley contributed additional reporting.

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