Karaoke is serious business in Tokyo, so it's no surprise there are karaoke bars aplenty in the city. Most bars charge a flat fee, which includes a set number of drinks and unlimited karaoke. Additional beverages can be purchased -- and may be necessary depending on your bravado -- ranging from sake to American beers.
In the US, karaoke is often relegated to theme nights at dive bars and bachelorette parties when tipsy bridal parties belt out "I Will Survive" in a dark bar. In Tokyo, it's all about the theatrics: Some bars even provide stage lighting and special effects. You can choose an open bar where you can watch strangers croon John Denver tunes or rent a private room. There's no stage fright when amongst friends, and you can sing with abandon and even hog the stage. Many bars rent private rooms for a few hours of uninterrupted fun complete with table service.
Most popular Tokyo karaoke spots have a plethora of English tunes so there's no reason to stand by an old chestnut. According to the UK Times, as of October 2009, the owner of Smash Hits, Hide Saito, had listened to 25,000 versions of the Frank Sinatra hit "My Way" during his 25 years in the business. These days, he sets the limit to just 5 performances a night. To stay out of this karaoke rut, dig deep into that songbook and put your unique spin on an old favorite, whether it's 1980s big-hair bands, '90s grunge or a classic Broadway showstopper.
Here are our picks for the hottest karaoke spots around Tokyo where regular patrons and tourists alike get their song on.
Where to Go
Fiesta International Karaoke Bar in Roppongi is the karaoke jackpot for English speakers with over 10,000 songs in English. A flip through the songbook reveals gems by ABBA, Wham!, Weird Al Yankovic and plenty of pop hits by Britney Spears, Beyonce, Kelly Clarkson and, of course, the best boy bands from the Beatles to the Backstreet Boys.
Who says you've got to sing on a stage? At Lovenet, you can sing in the tub when you book the Aqua Suite, a private room complete with a bubbling Jacuzzi. Other fantasy suites at this Roppongi karaoke staple include the ethereal Heaven room and the exotic archways and comfy pillows in the intimate Morocco Suite.
Karaoke 47 offers sprawling views of the city from the 47th floor of the main tower at Keio Plaza Hotel. While there are just 4 rooms, each offers a panoramic view of the Shinjuku neighborhood and the metropolis beyond. Swing by for some afternoon tunes: This spot opens at 1:30 p.m. and closes at 11:30 p.m.
Smash Hits is one of the biggest karaoke joints in the city and a big hit with foreigners because of the prevalence of English songs. Selections range from standard pop to gospel, soul and show tunes. Package deals for private parties make this an attractive option for business events and even children's birthday parties as aspiring divas between the ages of 7 and 18 karaoke for free.
Karaoke-Kan is a Tokyo karaoke chain with locations throughout the city. The Shibuya location at 30-8 Udagawa-cho was the setting for the memorable karaoke scene in the 2003 film "Lost in Translation." Rent a private room, and enjoy a blast from the past with the selection of 1980s favorites.
In the same Shibuya neighborhood, Shidax Please! at Jinnan 1-12-13 has 130 rooms for private karaoke parties. There's also a restaurant where you can refuel before your grand finale of "Bohemian Rhapsody."