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A popular pastime in Japan (and as noted later, much of Asia), karaoke is the group activity of singing popular songs into a microphone, usually while the song's music and lyrics are playing and with the original words stripped from the music. The singer is typically graded by the karaoke program (and by onlookers) for his or her ability to match the original song. The activity has spread from Japan to many other nations, and home equipment and song versions are readily available. Filipinos in particular often have karaoke boxes during parties, and their singing (or screeching, depending on the song and singer) is often audible for at least a block around.
For people who don't own the equipment or want to sing karaoke as part of a fun night out, a karaoke box is an establishment that rents private rooms with karaoke equipment on the basis of short time intervals. Food and drink can be ordered and delivered to the room. Often they are part of a karaoke bar. Many karaoke boxes offer the option of nomi-houdai which translates to "all you can drink" and is the exact opposite of "responsible drinking", as it involves you drinking as much alcohol as possible in two or three hours to make the most of your yen.
Patrons of a karaoke box need only worry about embarrassing themselves in front of their closest friends rather than in front of a bar full of strangers.
For the unfortunates who have missed the last train home (or young folks traveling on a shoestring budget), a karaoke box is an acceptable and inexpensive place to spend the night, as many are open 24 hours, charge a minimal hourly rate, are nicely sound-insulated, and have staff who keep the place safe and really don't care whether you sing, drink, or sleep.
In 2004 the Annals of Improbable Research, sponsors of the "Ig Nobel" prizes for dubious scientific achievement, awarded the Ig Nobel Peace Prize to Daisuke Inoue "for inventing karaoke, thereby providing an entirely new way for people to learn to tolerate each other." Inoue-san actually showed up to receive his prize in person and included a rendition of "I'd like to teach the world to sing" in his acceptance speech.
Anime and Manga
- Ayashi no Ceres
- Azumanga Daioh
- Boku wa Tomodachi ga Sukunai
- Brass Restoration
- Detective Conan solved a murder in a karaoke box
- The Girl Who Leapt Through Time, in which the protagonist uses her time-resetting abilities to do karaoke for ten hours straight.
- Hajime no Ippo.
- In Hanamaru Kindergarten, Tsuchida's first open attempt to confess his feelings to Yamamoto-sensei takes place while they're both fairly drunk in a karaoke booth. Unfortunately for him, she's so Oblivious to Love that she misinterprets it as a dramatic rendering of a line from a manga she likes. (He got the line from there, but that's beside the point.)
- Hayate the Combat Butler
- Hidamari Sketch — This one stands out a bit because Hiro was doing it an attempt to lose weight when she heard singing could help burn calories.
- High School Girls
- A chapter of Kochikame has Ryotsu singing (very loudly) trying to get the highest score. He gets a good score first, but decreases in subsequent singing with his loud voice and tampering with the box.
- In Kamichama Karin Chu, Kazune and Jin have a karaoke contest at one point. Since Jin is a professional Idol Singer, you can kinda guess who wins.
- Kannagi dedicated the tenth episode, "Karaoke Senshi Mic Takako", to the main cast visiting one. Odd song choices and awkward romantic tension both happened, as well as a Lucky Star cameo.
- Kashimashi: Girl Meets Girl
- The third Kiss X Sis OVA starts with the sisters and Keita in a karaoke booth, with the goal of countering his depression. To that end, they also were Sexy Santa Dresses. (The first song turns out to be the opening theme.) It's also the setting for the rest of the OVA.
- Lucky Star's endings are the four main characters singing in a karaoke box. Konata hogs the microphone most of the time but the others all get turns and mix it up with some non-anime related songs.
- Love Hina
- Lovely Complex
- Mai-HiME has one in Episode 16 for the party of the newly-formed Hime Sentai. Mai is quite excited about it, but is disappointed to have to go last (interestingly enough, Natsuki and Nao, who hate singing and their costumes, and sing badly have to go first). At the end of the series, Mai sings the opening song in the newly-formed Karaoke club.
- Macross Plus
- No box, but two of the sound stages in Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha (The one set in a pool and the one set during the Hanami Festival) had karaoke sets which some of the characters used to belt out their Image Songs.
- In Midori no Hibi, Seiji and Ayase end up in somewhat intimate circumstances in a karaoke booth, but Seiji scares her off by being too aggressive.
- Onani Master Kurosawa
- Ouran High School Host Club, but only in the manga.
- In the second season of Sasami Magical Girls Club, Washu and Daimon take Itoki to a karaoke bar to try and pump her for information on the Magical Girls Camp the girls have been invited to, but instead she just sings the opening and ending themes and gets drunk.
- Tenchi Muyo! — Happens in the Alternate Universe series, Tenchi Universe and Tenchi in Tokyo. In Pretty Sammy, Chihiro Kawai (Sasami and Tenchi's mother) is a karaoke addict.
- Tokyo Babylon
- An early episode of Ultra Maniac involves the characters going to a karaoke bar and singing snippets of the opening and ending themes as duets. Singable lyrics were written for the dub. Nina, a transfer from the Magic Kingdom, sings a song from Doraemon, since it's the only one she knows.
- Wandering Son has a few instances of the kids going to a Karaoke Box.
- Lorne from Angel ran the Caritas, a karaoke bar, and often featured both demon extras and series regulars singing karaoke (generally badly).
- Best Love
- Boys Before Flowers
- Lie to Me
- The Live Action Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon, whose secret base is actually a mystical Karaoke Box.
- Scent Of A Woman
- Persona 3: A karaoke box is one of the ways to raise your courage stat.
- In the Tokimeki Memorial series, the Karaoke Box is one of the mainstay date locations. One of the Bad Endings of Tokimeki Memorial 2 also takes place there, as the player and his two friends are venting their frustration of not getting a girlfriend after their 3 years of High School, by singing a karaoke.
- Takeshis Challenge has a karaoke box where you have to sing an enka song well enough to do two encores, then provoke a Bar Brawl.
- In El Goonish Shive, the main cast have a karaoke contest as part of Grace's birthday party. It is then revealed it was a ploy for Ellen to demonstrate the effect her Second Life dreams had on her.