Karaoke is a mashup of the Japanese words for ‘empty’ and ‘orchestra’ – kara oukesutora. A musical track with no words has always been useful for professional singers who can’t always have access to their full cast of performers. And historically it was a Japanese tradition to entertain guests with music. Combine that with the nation’s penchant for innovation and entertainment, and karaoke was born. Here are the top places to get in touch with your inner Japanese and sing your heart out in Tokyo.
Throwing the social aspect of karaoke out the window, 1Kara takes a different approach and offers karaoke booths for one. For first-timers, it’s the perfect place to practice before your next party. And for seasoned singers, nothing is more therapeutic than belting out your favorite tunes without worrying if the neighbors are listening. 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, so if you forget yours, rentals are available for a 300 yen fee.
Karaoke Kan is a popular karaoke chain with branches in all of Tokyo’s main entertainment districts, and three along Meiji-dori alone. Offering all-you-can-drink deals until dawn, it’s easy to see how it became popular with everyone from university students and housewives to salarymen and expats. Karaoke Kan has a wide selection of rooms, from basic and VIP to large party rooms – the ones in Kabukicho can accommodate over 60 people. Prices change from day to night, weekday to weekend, and from branch to branch, ranging from around 80 yen every 30 minutes during the day to 600 yen on the weekend at night. One drink order minimum required.
Amour offers a quiet, private alternative to the usual boisterous karaoke scene. The establishment only has four small rooms, which are perfect for low-key karaoke parties. Lady Gaga was a customer here in 2012.
Located in Kabukicho, this snack bar will have you singing alongside live electric guitar and whatever other instruments the owners happen to have lying around. Studio Himawari offers their karaoke sessions for 3,000 yen including 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 neighborhood. Closed on Wednesdays.
Uta Hiroba is all about the music. Although the décor can be a bit gaudy at times, that doesn’t distract singers from the wide selection of music available here – Disney tracks included. Uta Hiroba’s starting prices are not that different from competing branches like Karaoke Kan at 240 yen per hour on daytime weekdays, and 700 yen at night on weekends. But they remain a favorite because the drinks bar is included in the price, which often more than makes up for the difference.
Known to collaborate with popular manga and anime franchises, Pasela Resorts karaoke and restaurant is a haven for gamers and otaku. But their impressive selection of foreign songs is contributing to the karaoke bar’s popularity among expats, too. 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.