When people are asked to name something from Japan, there are lots of different options to choose from. Computer game companies such as Nintendo and Sony; food such as sushi and sashimi; martial arts such as karate and . Japan has thus given a lot to the world, but there is one thing that they are especially proud of. Karaoke.
Koreans love their noraebangs, but I think the Japanese are top of the class when it comes to enthusiasm about singing rooms. From our experience, foreign people who live in Japan also get hooked, as it was Lucy's idea to go. So soon after getting over the fish eyeball, we were up on the fifth floor of a building losing our collective voices.
If you're thinking Lost in Translation at this point, don't; our room was nothing like that. For one, it was a lot, lot smaller.There was one small sofa, a stool, and a very small table. It was a tight fit for four people. All of this was overshadowed by the big TV screen, and the enormous window.
They seemed to have more foreign songs here, though that could just be this particular karaoke joint. It definitely helped that we went with Japanese speakers. Lucy had been telling us that many people go to karaoke to drink, rather than sing. The reason? At the start you can request that your room has an all-you-can-drink option. Do you think we did it? Do I even need to give you an answer?
One really good idea, which I haven't seen in a noraebang, was linked to this. Rather than wasting time going back and forth to the entrance to order drinks, they instead had a phone in the room. Pick up the phone, order your drinks, and they are brought to you. By a man with bunny ears on his head, naturally. How they can hear the order amongst my horrible renditions of Jet and Foo Fighters songs I have no idea; I guess they get used to it.
We were there for about two hours. Voices disappeared into the microphones. Favourite song was Bohemian Rhapsody, closely followed by the girly trio singing Lady Gaga's Bad Romance. Added to the singing was the unique sight of the Ellen, Fumy and Lucy jumping up and down wildly whilst performing. Hilarious.
Fumy and Lucy had to leave - we had an early start in the morning and they had to get the final subway - so myself and Ellen went to check out a club recommended by Lonely Planet, called GasPanic. The basic philosophy of the place is that you have to have a drink in your hands at all times, otherwise you get removed. We strictly adhered to this, because we had one drink and then left very, very quickly. Horrible, disgusting place. A Western guy accused me of 'invading his space' - I was merely trying to get to the bar. Some Westerners can be jerks. I know I can be!
We wandered for a wee while, before stumbling - in my case definitely stumbling after the karaoke drinking session - across a quirky bar. We headed in, and it seemed quite quiet, but was playing decent music, so we stuck with it for a while.
What a good decision. Some Japanese men in shirts and suits came over to us. Their English wasn't too shabby, and they were a lot of fun. They asked the girlfriend question regarding the two of us - they weren't the only ones to ask, not by a long shot - and then opted to spend much of the night telling Ellen how beautiful she was! I think she enjoyed that. One of the funnier ones was the one in the photo below who looks like he belongs in the Yakuza. He was the boss of a company, decided to play translator between me and one of his colleagues. A girl (this is me being a jerk, but she looked better at the time) who I thought looked a similar age to me, but was in fact 38. And spoke no English.
These guys then preceded to get us drinks. Of course when you go to Japan you drink Guinness! Japanese people like their drink just as much as the Koreans. At one point in the night I was swigging JD out of a bottle on our table. A man got me a cup, which was nice. Didn't really get used, though.
So this girl. In spite of the glaring language barrier, I felt I was making decent progress. She was playing me J-pop (yes, it is called that, very original) on her Ipod touch, and then wanted to play a game of othello with me. I haven't played in years, but agreed. Her boss interjects at this point, and suggests that a wager be placed on the game. Basically, if I won, I got to make out with her. Ridiculous, sexist, whatever you want to call it. Game on.
As I mentioned, I haven't played in years. I was winning for a little while, but then all of a sudden she brought her A-game to the table. Probably not the A-game, actually. Turns out I'm ruddish at othello. A scoreline of something in the region of 45-15 would suggest that. No kiss for me, then. During the game I had looked up to check on Ellen, only to see her jumping around wildly to music again. The Who, this time, not Lady Gaga.
It had passed 3am before we left. It was a great night - Japanese people are a lot of fun, and they know how to have a good time. They're also quite good at othello. There was no sense of regret, even though we were armed with the knowledge that we had to be alive and kicking again in around 3 hours. Why? Oh, I'll tell you next time.
Love you all