Friday, January 21, 2011


Yesterday I did something I've never done before and probably won't do again. I went to a Karaoke "bar". (It wasn't a bar... It was a Karaoke room...)

There was a time when Karaoke was the big thing in Japan and there were Karaoke bars and people were buying Karaoke systems for home use. (By the way, the word Karaoke comes from a composite word, kara, meaning empty, and oke taken from the English word orchestra. An Empty Orchestra). I have been to places (like in the gimmicky spas) where there is a stage and customers will pay to have a song played while they stand up in front of everyone and pretend they are famous crooners. ... But I've never tried myself and Tetsu shuns Karaoke places with a long arm. (He doesn't even keep hymn melodies very well. He says he refuses to make a fool of himself in front of a lot of people.)

Anyway, my pool friend, Kyoko-san called me on my cell phone when I was in her city and wanted to get together to go bowling or do Karaoke or go a hot spa. (This week the pool is closed for its annual cleaning and repairs so we patrons are left with finding other ways to bathe.) Hmm. I really had wanted to go home and do patchwork but I believe in putting people first so I met up with Kyoko-san and we decided what to do with a couple spare hours.

Bowling? I've been bowling years before and wasn't very good at it. Yeah, I could probably spend an hour doing that though it sounds like more exercise (and I've been so happy free from lap swimming!) Karaoke? I've never done that. I know that is one place Tetsu is never going to take me. And if it is just Kyoko-san then maybe it doesn't matter if I make a fool of myself. So I voted for Karaoke (with a hot spa bath afterwards.)

Use of a Karaoke room is about $5 an hour with a free refillable soft drink thrown in. We signed into a narrow room with a TV screen and a menu (you can order nibbles if you want) and were given two sterilized microphones and a type-in keyboard. Knowing nothing I let Kyoko-san man the keyboard and she punched in a couple songs and stood up to warble.

She was really very good! A very nice voice obviously trying to emulate one of the famous Enka stars in Japan. Enka is translates as:

", based on the pentatonic scale has some resemblance to blues. Enka lyrics are usually written similarly around the themes of love and loss, loneliness, enduring hardships, and persevering in the face of difficulties, even suicide or death."

Not a too cheerful set of topics but a singer can put a lot of emotion into one song and Kyoko-san played it to the hilt!

I'm afraid I'm more self-conscious and I sat with the microphone a foot away from my face and tried to pick out the tune to Country Roads. There were enough Simon and Garfunkel, Celine Dion, and Disney theme songs that I had a good time but I doubt that I'm going to make Karaoke a part of my regular schedule. I do better (I think) with gospel music and a guitar than with Enka and a microphone...

(Illustration from the Internet, Karaoke definition from Wikipedia.)

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