Emily and I went to a karaoke club last night with a few of her JET friends.
Although the bad singing, goofy background video, and even goofier musical melodies are the same, karaoke in Japan is very different experience from karaoke in America.
First of all, you rent a room and pay by the hour (or half hour, I guess). For 6 people to sing (and I use the word 'sing' very loosely) for an hour it cost 2500 Yen.
You have to pay in advance. When you walk into the club, and this may only be true for the club we went to, there is a desk in front staffed by a single worker. You pay and then he assigns you a private room.
At the club we visited, we had to walk down a hallway with about 20 glass doors, each leading into a private karaoke room about the size of a walkin closet.
Inside of the karaoke room you find the karaoke equipment, two screens, a little stage, a couple of tables, and couches along each wall.
There were no waitresses or bartenders at this particular club. We had to get all of our drinks out of a vending machine. All of the drinks in the vending machine cost between 200-400 Yen. A big Asahi was 400 Yen and a small can of beer flavored schwill cost 200 Yen. The machines also had Chu Hi, Cocktail Partner (Rum & Coke in a can), sodas, water, and the 100 or so assorted types of coffee that every vending machine has.
When your hour (or two hours, as was our case) is up, the karaoke equipment automatically shuts down. Even the microphones shut off. You have the option of going up to the front desk and paying more money or leaving. You don't get to sit around and finish your drinks or talk in the room. You either have to pay or go.