Karaoke, which translates from the Japanese characters as “empty orchestra” dates from the 1960s. Today it is not only a prime pastime for many Japanese, irrespective of age, but a global phenomenon. Devotees sing favorite songs to pre-recorded tapes, CDs, and DVDs in bars, pubs, and even at home. Most popular are Western standards, current pop songs, and enka, the Japanese equivalent of French chanson.
It is common for Japanese companies to build karaoke complexes consisting of small, cozy rooms for couples to much larger spaces, some with concert-style lighting, for groups of friends and large parties. Food and drinks can be ordered. It is hard to escape karaoke – it is everywhere in the city.
Big Echo is the name of one major karaoke chain that operates in Tokyo, and the well known games company Sega operates another. Family restaurant chains such as Denny’s, Jonathan’s, and Royal Host are also strong supporters. Sometimes venues even star in movies: Karaoke-kan in Shibuya’s Center Gai is the famed location used in the 2003 movie Lost in Translation – the rooms used are 601 and 602 on the sixth floor.