1Kara: Solo Karaoke in Shinjuku

Whether you just want to practice, don’t want to bother others with singing out of tune or just for personal enjoyment, there are plenty of reasons going solo at karaoke. „Hitokara“ (hitori: alone, kara: karaoke) is big in Japan and there is one place in Shinjuku, Tokyo catering to people entering a karaoke booth alone. I had a fresh list of songs which I never sang at karaoke so I headed to Shinjuku for a two hour(!) sessions.

I went there on an early Monday, just after breakfast. The 40+ booths were obviously not booked out, but before starting, I had to become a 1Kara member. Free wifi is available at 1Kara and you can immediately use it to download the app „Karaoke Manekineko“ which oddly enough is available internationally. The staff also asked me whether I’m living in Japan, but they didn’t require a Japanese address or specific visa. Finally, there’s a range of headphones you can borrow.

Karaoke controller

One important part is choosing the room. While they are all sound-proof, they are not equipped with the same machines. It also means a difference in available tracks. I requested their newest machine, as I had various songs from 2019 and 2020 on my list. The latter may also be the most important thing to prepare before heading to a 1Kara: I didn’t want to waste too much time thinking about my next title. So I prepared a playlist, made sure it was longer than two hours and listened to it repeatedly.

The booths are big enough for two people and there is actually a second microphone at the booth. A tablet is used to search for songs and artists. You can switch between Japanese kana and the roman alphabet with a keypress, add a title immediately for singing or to the queue and cancel the current song.

Karaoke machine at 1Kara

And so I sang and sang – from classics (Speed, „White Love“) to new songs (E-Girls, „Betsu Sekai“). There were a couple of songs not in the database – mainly indie releases. The time is supposed to be displayed ten minutes before the session end, but there was no message on my screen.

I did an an all-Japanese session this time, but there are plenty of English and Korean language songs at Japanese karaoke booths as well. After my 1Kara session, I definitely knew which songs I would add to my karaoke master list, which songs to practice more and which tracks to better forget about. Curiously, the ones that were the hardest in my opinion were the songs that switch lots of times between Japanese and English.

My track list (I’ve kept the artist name in Roman alphabet):

Babymetal – ギミチョコ!!- Gimme chocolate!!
Morning Musume – さよならSEE YOU AGAIN
Arashi – One Love
Speed – White Love
Kyary Pamyu Pamyu – PonPonPon
Utada Hikaru – Goodbye Happiness
Foorin – Paprika
Base Ball Bear – 全ては君のせいで
Sakanaction – 新宝島
Eve – 闇夜
Ikimonogakari – Sakura
The Oral Cigarettes – 混乱Hey Kids!!
Keyakizaka46 – 二人セゾン
Seven Billion Dots – Stay with me
J Soul Brothers – R.Y.U.S.E.I.
May’n – ViVid
E-Girls – 別世界
Monkey Majijk+sandwichman – Umarvellous
Band Maid – Domination
Official Higedandism – Pretender
AKB48 – 会いたかった
dream – この夏が終わるまでに

1Kara Mic arm

Mia Jaap

Journalist, developer and passionate about Japanese and Korean language. Japan is my #1 country for travelling, penguins my favourite animals.

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