Karaoke boxes: Why you shouldn’t be scared of them!

When I tell Western friends I’m off to karaoke for the night, I very often get a strange reaction. Usually it’s because they imagine me singing up front of a large crowd of strangers. No way! I’m talking karaoke boxes, the kind you typically find all across Asia and are easy to find in most English-speaking countries too. And I’m going to tell you why you shouldn’t be scared of a karaoke box – you should be rushing in because it is so much fun.

1. Karaoke is not always singing in front of strangers

In fact, for me, karaoke is never singing in front of strangers! This is what the average karaoke box looked like in Japan:

Karaoke in Japan, with some of my favourite students

Karaoke in Japan, with some of my favourite students

It’s a tiny room! There was only just enough room for our fourth karaoke group member to step back into the doorway to take this photo. To the left of the picture, straight in front of me in a sense (if you can recognise the much younger me … I guess it’s easy, I’m the one who doesn’t look Japanese) is a TV screen and all the machine bits required for karaoke to work. The photo below is from a different place, but you get the idea.

Uptown Girl! Popular karaoke the world over.

Uptown Girl! Popular karaoke the world over.

You book a room and that’s just for you and your friends – nobody else will come in (and nobody else can hear you sing because they’re all busy singing in other rooms).

2. Karaoke doesn’t mean you have to sing alone

Karaoke with my dear friend Jules

Karaoke with my dear friend Jules

I think I have very, very rarely sung a song on my own despite my many, many hours of time spent in karaoke boxes. Some people love doing a solo and it’s certainly fine to do that, but personally I have a lot more fun singing with a friend.

3. Karaoke is not just for people with good voices

In all my karaoke experiences across Japan and Australia, I have never been in a karaoke box where people actually expected their friends to sing well. It is not about beautiful voices. It’s about getting together and having fun. Have you ever sung in the shower, or sung along to the radio in the car when you’re driving alone? I’m pretty sure virtually everybody has done that, and that’s the kind of fun aspect of singing that karaoke taps in to. If you find yourself in a karaoke box with people who actually care about how you sound, then they are totally not getting the spirit of karaoke and I wouldn’t go with them again!!

4. Karaoke is not just for the cool kids

When I lived in Japan, one of my most frequent karaoke companions was Nobuko, a grandmother, pictured on the right in the photo below. She had a particular love of ABBA so we got along famously. She always wanted me to sing “Chiquitita” with her. So I did, of course. I think of her immediately whenever I hear it.

Three generations at karaoke in Osaka, Japan

Three generations at karaoke in Osaka, Japan

If Nobuko can do it (and I would have to quietly say that she was no star singer), then everyone can. This photo shows three generations of Nobuko’s family all enjoying karaoke together. Sweet, hey?

You also don’t have to head to a karaoke box for a Saturday night with lots of alcohol. I’ve been to karaoke at all times of day; my friend Yuko and I went together, just the two of us, to celebrate her birthday one year when I lived in Japan – and we started singing at ten o’clock in the morning! (We tried to sing all the Beatles songs on their list, alphabetically by title – unfortunately our voices gave in at “H” for “Hard Day’s Night”!).

5. Karaoke extends your life

I always remember hearing this “fact” on the radio – someone said that singing is so good for you (physically and psychologically) that every hour you sing extends your life by an hour. I have no clue if there’s truth to this and I haven’t even googled it because I don’t want to read any contradiction – I think it’s a gorgeous idea and I know that I am so energised by a few hours in a karaoke box that I’m prepared to believe it!

Have I convinced you? Do you have your own karaoke experiences to share? Let me know in the comments.


  1. So what genre was your specialty?

  2. My problem is that I can never remember the words. I liked singing in a choir though 🙂

    • Ah, the beauty of karaoke – all the words there right in front of you! Often with amusing grammar and spelling errors though (last weekend we sang Bon Jovi’s “Lining on a Prayer” instead of “Living”!)

  3. you have totally convinced me… are there any in Perth, and if not, is there any way I can install one in my shower, as I always sound best in there…

    • Yay Shan that’s what I love to here!!! Yep there are several in Northbridge! We should go!! I bet Rach is a karaoke fan too because she’s lived in Japan – she must be. We can have a blogger-karaoke night! (although I agree, I sound better in the shower!!!!)

  4. Karaoke like this sounds so much fun . I’m going to look for a local one here … I wonder if there is one. Last time I did karaoke was at our leaving party in Lesotho – I can remember trying to sing “Paper Roses” (very badly) to rather too many people, after one too many glasses of wine! Cringe 🙂

    • Hmm, I don’t know if there’s one down your way Jo – if not you’ll have to come up to Perth and we can have Blogger Karaoke night!

      And “very badly” is the order of the day (or night) in karaoke, I think!

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