Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Karaoke in Shibuya

On Sunday night after work I took the train into Shibuya. I met up with some housemates and friends at Shibuya station's Hachiko exit (this is like the landmark in Shibuya for me). It leads right onto the world's busiest pedestrian crossing, and you can tell how it gets that title.

I was very tired as I hadn't slept well the night before and had then worked all day, but I was looking forward to the night out.

We went to a cheap ramen (Chinese noodles) restaurant, where I had gyoza (Chinese dumplings), ramen soup and a rice bowl for Y850 (£4.25 - you've got to love Japan).

After that, we met up with some other friends who had just returned from Kamakura. Then we headed off to a cheap karaoke place that one of my housemates knew.

More people joined us halfway through and we ended up with nine people in a booth made for six. But there was plenty of room for all of us.

New British housemates came too, for a taste of real Japanese karaoke, and I think they had a great time. I certainly did. I was coerced into singing many songs that I wouldn't have chosen myself, like You're Beautiful by James Blunt. These were mainly requests for duets from other people, and then they later told me that they only knew the chorus! Another song that I ended up singing alone was Touch My Body by Mariah Carey (whenever I hear this song in the future I'll immediately be transported back to Japan, because it's literally everywhere). I'd never listened to the lyrics before, and let's just say that they were rather embarrassing to sing to a roomful of people.

I sang my karaoke special, the Titanic theme tune, which was lots of fun. I never claim to be a good singer, in fact I'm often heard to proclaim the opposite, but I do enjoy making a fool of myself.

I even tried a solo of my favourite cheap Japanese pop tune, Secret Secret by Perfume. The video is constantly played on MTV so I know the tune off by heart, but the words were another matter. I tried my best to read and sing along but it was so fast! It was loads of fun though, I couldn't help laughing halfway through.

It was a really great atmosphere by the end of the night (we sang for 3 hours, but it goes really quickly).

Everybody sang I Will Always Love You by Whitney Houston (the Bodyguard theme tune e.g. And Iiiiiiiiiiiiii....), which was hilarious, as you can imagine.

We also did a rousing rendition of Santa Claus is Coming to Town, and ended with a surprisingly uplifting version of Reach by S Club 7.

Oh what fun... I don't know what it is about karaoke that I like so much. I'm always really nervous beforehand, and the first few songs I sing have a trembling nervous vibrato on them, but once I relax into it, it's loads of fun.

It's not popular at all in the UK, and it's probably generally viewed as downright weird, but I must find a place and drag some of my friends there when I go back. I don't know if places like Japan where you book a booth for a few hours are common, or if there are only bars or pubs that offer karaoke. I know London has some booth-style places but they're bound to be really expensive.

Karaoke is really popular all over South-East and East Asia but it didn't spread to the West as much.

Be prepared, friends of Miles... you will sing!

After karaoke, we found a purikura (photo booth) place, where you go into a booth and take 7 photos with an effect or border of your choice. Then you choose the photos you want, and can mess around with them on a computer screen, adding sparkles, wigs, writing, animals etc. The outcome can have you in stitches.

If I can find a way to scan the photos into the computer, I'll post them here. If not, let your imagination run wild.

After that, we decided we better get back to the station. It was a good job we did, because it was Golden Week (the week when virtually all of Japan goes on holiday) and the last train was at 11:30. We caught that train back home, and then chatted for a while before going to bed.

I love going out in Tokyo. There's always some new strange thing to discover, and it's always loads of fun.

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