[From January Issue 2013]
Many people sing songs at “karaoke” with close friends or family. Part of Japanese culture, karaoke has been exported to other countries just as it is. The “kara” in the Japanese word karaoke means “empty” and the second part “oke,” is short for “o-kesutora” (orchestra). Originally the word karaoke referred only to the karaoke equipment itself, but now it also stands for a facility at which you can sing.
Originally karaoke booths contained thick books from which to select songs, but now a karaoke-on-demand machine together with remote control is standard. A wide repertoire of songs can be stored on a karaoke-on-demand machine, so songs come not only in Japanese, but in many other languages including, English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Chinese, and Korean.
However, in recent years, the numbers of people going to karaoke has begun to decline. According to All-Japan Karaoke Industrialist Association (Tokyo) – an organization that operates karaoke booths – the total number of karaoke goers in Japan during 2011 was 46.4 million. If you compare this with 1994, when karaoke was at the height of its popularity, this is a 20% decrease. The increase in the number of vacant karaoke booths during weekday afternoons is becoming a serious concern.
To counter this trend, some companies are increasingly offering karaoke booths to rent for other purposes than singing. For example, during this year’s summer holidays, SHIDAX CORPORATIONs “party rooms” were used as classrooms for the Shidax Chofu Kokuryo Club. In collaboration with Gakken E-mirai Co., Ltd., they hosted hour-long science and dietary education lessons for 30 children (of elementary school age and younger) and their parents.
YAMASHITA Koji, their PR representative says, “Through our collaboration with Gakken, we hoped to make links between our other business ventures, such as food and public service businesses. We hope to continue this course not only during the summer holidays, but during other major holidays, too.” It was well-received by guardians who commented that, “At first, the children were attracted to the idea of making sweets and snacks, but they also enjoyed the science experiments as well.”
Adores Inc. has karaoke machines in Akihabara, Tokyo that come with a device named “Sound Effecter” that allows you to plug in a guitar and play music. PR representative, FUJITA Masayuki says, “This is popular with people who come to use our rooms as a music studio. Currently the majority of users are young men in their teens and twenties, but we might have a different demographic of users from now on,” he says, hopefully. They also do guitar rentals.
Fujita emphasizes that the role of karaoke booths has evolved, “They’re no longer just a place to sing, they’ve become spaces for a variety of different uses and goals.” Recently, there has been an increase in the numbers of people who use these rooms on their own to practice a song they intend to sing at a wedding, or to study for an exam. This change reflects a trend towards trying to prevent booths becoming “kara,” or empty.
Text: ITO Koichi