Karaoke (empty orchestra) is a popular social activity for Japanese adults.  It is especially popular among "salarymen" or businessmen.  It is common for salarymen to spend hours drinking in karaoke pubs or snack bars for hours after they get off of work.  There are also Karaoke "clubs", which resemble hotels in that they have private rooms for groups of people.  They are immensely popular with the people of every level of social standing.  Many people fear being embarrassed by a bad karaoke performance and it is common to hire professional coaches just to improve expertise in these areas.  It is also common for karaoke machines to rate the performances of the singers.  Some even tell the singer how many calories were burnt from their performance.

Most clubs that specialize in offering karaoke are open for business around the clock.  On average, it costs twelve dollars per hour for each member of a group.  However, this  sometimes includes all you can drink or eat deals.  The rooms are stocked with everything a person needs to enjoy a night of karaoke.  The equipment includes televisions, video karaoke machines, microphones, and even maracas and tambourines.  Phones are used to order drinks and food.

Karaoke rooms range widely in style and size.  The privacy of the karaoke rooms makes the experience much different and more fun than the karaoke experiences that are offered in other countries, most of which involve getting up in front of whole bars full of strangers and singing to songs played by disc jockeys.  However, the private karaoke rooms of Japan are not completely soundproof and locked down.  Japan's karaoke bars have great song selection in a wide variety of genres.  Although most of the songs are Japanese, Beatles tunes are also quite popular, as are newer songs from the United Kingdom and the United States.  If a foreign visitor is present in a bar, it is usual for people to sing western music.

Karaoke was created twenty years ago in a small Japanese town called Kobe.  One night, a guitarist was unable to make it to a gig in a local snack bar, and the owner played a recording to fill in for him.  To make up for the missing guitarist, the owner encouraged the bar's guests to sing the songs with the recordings.  Eventually, this evolved into the creation of karaoke kits for home use, but the poorly-insulated and tightly-spaced residences that are common in the country made home karaoke an unpopular activity.  Therefore, the karaoke box came into existence in 1984 in Okayama.  In karaoke boxes, people can sing as loud as they want without bothering neighbors.  The karaoke phenomenon grew and grew and is now popular around the globe.
Karaoke is a great way to relax and make new friends in Japan, but better to practice a little before your live performance!