Music and Sounds of Okinawa
Karaoke Box
published Nov 21, 2019

Karaoke is a contraction that combines Japanese kara (empty) and ôkesutora (orchestra). Although there is some debate about who invented karaoke, it is generally accepted that it was invented in Japan in the 1970s. Unfortunately for the guy who came up with the idea it was not patented by the inventor who consequently lost out on a great fortune. In a way, supplanting the usual juke-box, the karaoke is an indispensable convenience for bar owners, and for customers it is pleasant to sing songs while drinking.

The Karaoke Box (karaoke bokkusu) is not a bar nor is it a restaurant. It's a temporary room that is rented for a specified period of time, similar to how one would rent a motel room. In some cases the room is the box of a motorized vehicle. So, if you wanted to plan a party or other event to include drinking and singing along to popular tunes it would be arranged by appointment and usually the box would arrive at your designated location. I have never seen one myself on Okinawa and don't know if a mobile karaoke box even exists on island.

Typically, the box is rented by the hour plus an additional fee per song played. Alcoholic (and non-alcholic, I presume) beverages along with light meals are available for purchase. It is typically available only in the afternoona nd evening. One troubling aspect of the use of a karaoke box is that its patronage, once rented, is pretty much up to the host and there are no reliable means of preventing underage partyers from indulging in the alcohol.
Many karaoke singers have one song which they are especially good at and which they use to show off their singing abilities. In Japan, this is called jûhachiban.

Although practices vary at different karaoke establishments, the general procedure for a karaoke session at a karaoke chain outlet is as follows:

Head to the reception counter, where the receptionist will inquire about the following points:

Is it your first time there? Many establishments require a registration for first-time customers. This involves filling out a simple form and showing a proof of identity, such as a passport.

The number of people in your group.

How long you expect to sing or the plan you would like to purchase.

An eventual initial food or drink order.

What karaoke player type you would like to use. Some establishments offer more than one type.

A room will be assigned according to the size of your group, and a tab will be given to you indicating your session's starting and ending times.

Establishments may either have the song catalogs in the rooms or have them available at the reception, in which case you would have to bring them to your room if desired. The same applies to percussion instruments such as tambourines and maracas.

Go to your room, pick your songs with the karaoke player and sing with the provided microphones.

When your time is up, bring your tab to the counter for payment or inquire about an extension.

This Week on Okinawa, May 23-30 1990 issue

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