Thursday, 7 September 2017

The Renderers Japan Tour

New Zealand band The Renderers are coming to Japan for some shows in Tokyo, Kyoto and Matsumoto.

Described as deep, dark and psychedelic, The Renderers have released 11 albums in a career spanning almost 3 decades. From their first release in 1990 on New Zealand label Flying Nun Records, to the title track on Chicago’s Drag City Records New Zealand music sampler “I Hear the Devil Calling Me” to releases on legendary Philadelphia based Siltbreeze and New York’s Ba Da Bing Records, they have splattered their music across the best and the most underground of labels. The Renderers served briefly as Bonnie Prince Billy’s backing band, and he paid tribute to them with his cover of the title track of their 1998 album A Dream of the Sea, on his More Revery release, which was this year re-issued on vinyl.


Tour dates:

Sep 8th (Fri)
Tokyo - Koenji
@ Penguin House
Acts: The Renderers, Kawaguchi Masami's New Rock Syndicate, Suishou No Fune

Sep 9th (Sat)
Nagano - Matsumoto
@ Give Me Little More
Acts: The Renderers, ASUNA, よいのはて, 玉屋

Sep 14th (Thur)
@ 京都熊野神社ZacBaran
Acts: The Renderers, 向井千惠+宮本隆+盛田たまご泰三, 一談+神田剛誌+仙波晃

Sep 16th (Sat)
Tokyo - Shibuya
@ Ruby Room
Acts: The Renderers, CAUCUS, SHOKO

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Tuesday, 5 September 2017

Tokyo Rock City

A promising new YouTube series had been launched called Tokyo Rock City. In each episode, they will show a live performance and interview from a Tokyo band, as well as introducing some live venues and upcoming gig information.
Check out their first episode featuring Bo-Beep!

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Monday, 7 August 2017

Fuji Rock Festival 2017 photos

Here are some photos of the bands, fans, chairs and mud from this year's Fuji Rock Festival.

Fuji Rock 2017

View the whole album on Flickr

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Fuji Rock Festival Tips 2017

Going to Fuji Rock Festival this year? Here is some useful advice for festivalgoers.

  • Hat. You will be spending most of your time without shelter. Not only will it protect you from the sun, but it will also help keep the inevitable rain out of your eyes. 
  • Sunscreen. Don't end up a red lobster.
  • Waterproof shoes. It is usually muddy and you'll be doing a lot of walking. Hiking boots or rubber boots are good, otherwise some old shoes that you don't mind destroying. A spare pair is a good idea.
  • Raincoat. It is likely to rain and umbrellas are not allowed in the festival site, so bring a light raincoat or poncho. Many people also bring rain pants.
  • Spare clothes. You will get wet, muddy and sweaty.
  • Small towels are very handy for mopping up sweat and rain, protecting your neck, washing your face etc.
  • Cash. There are no ATMs on site or in the surrounding area.
  • Batteries. For your smartphone recharger, camera and torch.
  • Rubbish bags. Not only for rubbish but for keeping things dry and to sit on when the ground is wet. These are usually freely given out at some places in the festival site.
  • Something to sit on. You usually have to sit on the ground so just a plastic bag can be enough, or a small cushion or fold-up chair.
  • Painkillers for headaches and hangovers.
  • Portable smartphone recharger. You will probably be relying on your phone a lot.
  • Insect repellent. Especially useful for campers. You will be in the forest.
  • Umbrella. You can't bring it in the festival site but it's ok in the campsite and while you're queuing for tickets and the bus.
  • Plastic covers or things to keep your gear dry while you're walking around and waiting in the rain.
  • Something to sleep on. Seriously, campers. Bring a blow-up mattress or at least a roll-up mat.

Visit a large 100 yen shop and pick up a few useful things. Here are some ideas:
  • Disposable rain coats, rain suits and ponchos. These are cheap and will break but are good for a backup.
  • Plastic zip-lock bags to keep your camera, phone and wallet dry.
  • Torch. Absolutely necessary for campers but good for everyone else too. Parts of the festival site can be pretty dark at night.
  • Pocket tissues and wet tissues to keep clean.
  • Plastic tarps (blue sheets).
  • Spare tent pegs.
  • Mallet for banging in tent pegs.
  • Small fold-up chair or fold-up cushion for sitting on.
  • Rope. Can be useful for campers.
  • Pocket knife. Also useful for campers.
  • Insulated PET bottle cover or portable water bottle.

Buying it there:
Most alcoholic drinks in the festival grounds cost 600 yen. The beer is almost always Heineken but you can also get some craft beer at Craft Beer Market at Orange Cafe, Happa in the campsite and Tokoro Tengoku. Naeba Shokudo sells some good nihonshu (sake) and shochu. The Tokoro Tengoku/Cinema Fuji has some decent cocktails, fresh juice and cheap chu-hi. For real bars and wine, go to Palace of Wonder or Cafe de Paris. Some cheap drinks and makeshift bars can usually be found near the festival entrance and the surrounding area.

Bringing it in:
Glass bottles and cans are not allowed to be brought into the festival grounds and your bags will be checked each time you enter. But don't worry - alcohol is allowed to be brought in, so you can mix up drinks in plastic bottles in your tent/room and then carry them into the festival. Bring a cooler box/bag along to keep in your tent/room and get ice from the store near the front of the Prince Hotel. There are vending machines around the entrance which mainly only sell Pocari Sweat, water and Coca-Cola so bring some spirits which you can mix with coke (vodka, bourbon, rum etc.) or water (shochu, whisky etc.).

This is Japan so food is a huge part of the festival and you will find plenty of good choices. The biggest concentration of food stalls is the Oasis/World Restaurant area near the Red Marquee. You will also find clusters of them in front of the festival site, at Palace of Wonder, Gypsy Avalon, and other stages and spots. Most food is around 600yen. Good, simple and cheap Japanese food can be had at Naeba Shokudo. Some food details have been announced at

Unfortunately most of the food is meat-heavy, but vegetarians can try the Mumbai Indian stall, the pizza stall, the omusubi (rice ball) stall, Pommeke fries and Naeba Shokudo in the Oasis food area, veggie curry at Big Cake and an inari sushi stall in the Blue Galaxy area, Toyama Aozora and possibly some other things in the Avalon area, the bakery and pizza stalls at Field of Heaven and there are likely to be a few other options here and there. It is advisable to bring a bit of extra food yourself too.

The festival site is an enormous ski resort in the mountains so expect to spend a lot of time walking, walking and walking. You'll need to study the timetable and factor in long walking times between stages on opposite ends of the festival. It can take up to half an hour. Remember that crowds, mud and walking in the dark can hold you up. The paths and boardwalks between stages take you through beautiful green forests so the walking is usually pleasant. The boardwalk can be a quick way to get between the Green Stage and Field of Heaven. It will also take a long time to walk into the festival from the campsite, nearby hotels and the bus stop.


You can get stuff sent to and from the festival by Yamato at reasonable prices. There is a counter near the entrance where you can pack and post stuff. This is very useful if you're too tired to carry all your stuff home. The Yamato counter can also store your luggage throughout the festival.

In the Oasis food area there is an information centre that you can go to if you lose anything, have any problems, need first aid etc. Nearby there is also a notice board where they will post any changes to the schedule and people can leave messages for each other. Fujirockers also has a tent around here where you can use the Internet.

The kick-off party on Thursday night is highly recommended. It's free to the public so some locals come and hold a bon-odori (traditional dance) and fireworks. Surprise bands and DJs play on the Red Marquee and Ganban stages while everyone gets hyped up and ready for the festival.

  • The campsite covers a large golf course and surrounding area on the front left of the festival site. Unfortunately, most of it is hilly so flat land is at a premium. The earlier you can get there, the better. Definitely try to arrive on Thursday when it opens if you can. All the best spots get snapped up on Thursday. You can camp from Thursday at 12:00 to Monday at 12:00.
  • For women, there is a girls-only area in a great spot near the entrance. 
  • The ideal place to pitch your tent is on flat ground (seriously! You will see some tents on crazy angles), not too far from (or close to) the entrance, not at the bottom of a hill as the lower areas get flooded and muddy, near (but not too close to!) toilets, ideally near some trees for shade and to use as a post for a clothesline (but you're not supposed to do this), and not right next to the path (unless you want people falling on and kicking mud on your tent).
  • At the entrance to the campsite there is a camping service station. The staff there can help you if you have trouble pitching your tent and other things. There is also a BBQ area here for campers who bring their own food. You are not supposed to use fire or barbecues in the campsite.
  • There are some showers and onsen (hot spring bath) you can use near the campsite entrance. Expect long queues and no privacy. Around the campsite there are some toilets which have sinks next to them that you can use to wash up. Some of the nearby hotels will let you use their public baths for a small fee.
  • A tent with a shaded entrance is ideal so you can escape from the hot tent, sun and rain during the mornings.
  • A fly for your tent will help you keep dry.
  • If you buy a different ticket, you can camp in another camping area called Pyramid Garden. It is a flat, grassy area with its own stage. There is also a Moon Caravan camping area where you can camp with your car or dog.
  • Before you go to the festival, good place to find cheap camping and outdoor gear is at a 'home centre' (big DIY/furniture shops) like Simachu, Cainz, Komeri etc or cheap department store type places like Don Quixote or Olympic. You can find good quality stuff at outdoor stores like L-Breath. has a big range of outdoor gear too. 
  • Ganban offers tent rental for the festival but unfortunately it's already sold out.
  • Most people take the shinkansen from Tokyo or Ueno station. You need to get off at Echigo-Yuzawa station. It takes just over an hour and costs 5940 yen (unreserved seat) or 6660 yen (reserved seat) from Ueno one-way. There are about one or two trains an hour. You can get tickets from the JR counter of any major JR station. You could get the return tickets in advance as well, or just get them when you get to Echigo Yuzawa. Check train times at Hyperdia.
  • Local trains cost almost half the price of a shinkansen (3350yen), but take almost four hours. Get the JR Takasaki line from Ueno to Takasaki, then the JR Joetsu line to Minakami, then the infrequent Joetsu line extension to Echigo-Yuzawa. Plan the train times in advance at Hyperdia. A seishun juhachi kippu is even cheaper. This ticket gives you five daily coupons of unlimited travel on JR local and rapid trains (not express or shinkansen) between July 20 and September 10 for only 11850yen. You can divide the 5 tickets among your friends and it'll work out to be only 2370yen to get to the festival! You will need to travel together though. Even if there are only two of you, if you use it on the way there and back, it'll only cost you 2962yen each way. You can take the above local train route. The seishun juhachi kippu is available at the ticket counters of most major JR stations.
  • There are some official bus services available from Tokyo and other places. They take longer and cost more than the shinkansen though, Details at Ganban or the official tour centre.
  • You can of course drive there. A car rental agency with English support is Nippon Rent-A-Car
  • Shuttle buses run to and from Echigo Yuzawa station from 12:00 on Thursday to Monday. There is no real timetable; they just keep going back and forth. Be prepared for long queues in the sun or rain. The buses also stop at Tashiro, Mitsumata and Asagai if your accommodation is around there. Don't worry if you don't have your festival ticket yet, the driver won't check. The bus costs 500 yen but the return trip is free.
  • You could get a taxi from Echigo-Yuzawa station to the site if you are in group of three or four, or if you are rich. It will probably cost around 7000 yen.
  • If you're leaving by shinkansen on Saturday or Sunday night, you will have to leave early enough to get the last train. This will mean missing the headliners on that day.
  • More transport details on the official site.
The big name acts will be on the Green Stage, White Stage, Red Marquee and Field of Heaven but make sure you check out some of the other stages and areas of the site too.
  • Mokudo Tei is a tiny stage set up on the boardwalk in the middle of the forest where bands play intimate sets. 
  • Day Dreaming/Silent Breeze is a 20-minute cable-car ride away up on top of a mountain. Some cool hip-hop and electronica acts play up there, there are weird games and costumes, a flying fox, a restaurant, dragonflies and a really fun relaxed atmosphere where you are allowed to act like children. It costs 1500 yen return to get the gondola there.
  • Naeba Shokudo is near the world food area/Red Marquee. You can sit undercover on the tatami, get some nice Japanese food and sake, as well as catch some performers on the small stage. 
  • The Crystal Palace tent and Palace of Wonder area is a bizarre place near the festival entrance where you can have some all-night fun. Dance, play, have some cocktails and watch the Mega Globe of Death. Check out some up-and-coming bands late at night on the Rookie A Go-Go stage. 
  • If you have time, go right down to the very end of the festival beyond the Field of Heaven to the Cafe de Paris tent. You can get some good cocktails and wine, catch some interesting entertainment and cool down your feet in the creek. Also checkout the nearby Orange Cafe and Busker Stop areas.
  • There are hammocks you can use in the forest at the back between the Gypsy Avalon stage and NGO area. Take a look at the NGO booths while you're there and catch a performance on the Gypsy Avalon stage.
  • Ganban has a small stage near the World Restaurant area where DJs play. This is a fun and casual area to dance late at night.
  • Cinema Fuji is a cool area to hang out and watch some late night films or buskers. There are also some good cocktails, juice and food here at Tokoro Tegoku. You can cool your feet in the creek here too. It's past Kids Land, between the Green and White stages.
  • There are also a couple of areas behind the Prince Hotel called Pyramid Garden and Moon Caravan open only to campers.
There is a great free app you can download to help decide which bands to see and plan your timetable. In the App Store or Google Play.

Day One (Tokyo Gig Guide)
Day Two (Tokyo Gig Guide)
Day Three (Tokyo Gig Guide)

See you there!

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Friday, 26 May 2017

Music Festivals 2017

Here are some of the best festivals coming up in summer and beyond, all accessible from Tokyo.

May 27, 28
Beautiful and fun camping festival in Nagano.
@ Kodama no Mori Campsite, Nagano
Lineup: Acid Arab, Battles Bibio, Cero, Clammbon and more.
Tickets: ¥14,000
Day OneDay Two

May 27, 28
Free outdoor, camping, food and music festival
@ Meiji Jingu Gaien, Tokyo
Lineup: bird, bunbuku, Michael Kaneko, The Natsuyasumi Band, Yasei Collective, more
Tickets: Free entry
Day OneDay Two

May 27, 28
Wander around Shimokitazawa checking out up-and-coming indie bands.
@ various venues in Shimokitazawa, Tokyo
Lineup includes 100s of local bands like Gezan Mass of the Fermenting Dregs, Tempalay, skillkills.
Tickets: ¥5,900, day only ¥4,800, night only ¥3,000

OOO! Vol. 6
June 3
Chaotic experimental event at a live house and studio in Shinjuku.
@ JAM, Shinjuku, Tokyo
Lineup: Kuruucrew, Blackphone666, T. Mikawa (Incapacitants) x Kazehito Seki, The Dead Pan Speakers, Foodman, more.
Tickets: ¥2,500 advance, ¥3,000 door

June 10, 11
Friendly camping festival with Japanese artists in the mountains.
@ President Resort Karuizawa, Gunma
Lineup: SOIL & "PIMP" SESSIONS, Seiko Oomori, never young beach, D.A.N, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥7,500, 2 days ¥14,000
Day OneDay Two

June 11
Urban festival in a park near Ginza.
@ Hibiya Open Air Concert Hall, Tokyo
Lineup: Ame no Parade, DATS, DYGL, Tensai Band, Humbert Humbert, bonobos
Tickets: ¥3,500

June 17
Crazy Tokyo bands at a live house and studio in Akihabara.
@ Club Goodman, Akihabara, Tokyo
Lineup: SAYUU, Energish Golf, Elephant Noiz Kashimashi, Bossston Cruizing Mania, Compact Club, more
Tickets: ¥1,000

June 17, 18
Wander around the love hotel district of Shibuya checking out a wide range of Japanese artists.
@ various venues in Shibuya, Tokyo
Lineup: 100s of local bands including Urbangarde, Shibusashirazu Orchestra, toddle, Negicco, Puffy, more.
Tickets: 1 day ¥6,800, 2 days ¥12,500
Day OneDay Two

June 17, 18
Sold out urban festival of Japanese pop-punk bands.
@ Makuhari Messe, Chiba
Lineup: coldrain, Ken Yokoyama, Oi-Skall Mates, Mongol800, Garlicboys, more
Tickets: sold out!
Day OneDay Two

July 25
Chilled-out day in Saitama with some quirky Japanese pop bands.
@ Tokorozawa Kōkū Kinen Kōen, Saitama
Lineup: Shugo Tokumaru, Nikaido Kazumi with Gentle Forest Quintet, never young beach, Open Reel Ensemble, Ide Kensuke to Bosen
Tickets: ¥4,500

July 24, 25
Dance music based festival near Tokyo.
@ Shirahama Flower Park, Chiba
Lineup: Dachambo with Saori Kanda, Killer-Bong, Bryan Burton-Lewis, DJ Shhhhh, Gonno, more
Tickets: ¥7,000
Day OneDay Two

July 8
Small one-day event at a club in Shibuya.
@ Womb, Shibuya, Tokyo
Lineup: Zazen Boys, Dotama, imai (group_inou), Kindan No Tasuketsu, more
Tickets: ¥3,800

GFB '17
July 15, 16
Otherwise known as Goose Fresh Beat or Tsukuba Rock Fes, a nice and cheap camping festival in Tsukuba.
@ Tsukuba Auto Camping Ground, Ibaraki
Lineup: avengers in sci-fi, Homecomings, Owarikara, Denims, Chiina, Chai, Marquee Beach Club, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥5,500, 2 days ¥10,500
Day OneDay Two

July 15, 16, 17
A family-friendly festival, also held in Osaka and Fukuoka.
@ Tokorozawa Aviation Memorial Park, Saitama
Lineup: Soil & "Pimp" Sessions, Rhymester, Pushim, Nabowa, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥4,500, 3 days ¥12,000
Day One, Day Two, Day Three

July 15, 16, 17
Electronic music camping festival up in Nagano.
@ Uchiyama Camping Village, Nagano
Lineup: GAS, Svreca, Roly Portwe, Solar, DJ NOBU, Felix K, Sapphire Slows, more
Tickets: ¥15,000
Day One, Day Two, Day Three

July 22, 23
A cute camping festival in Chiba with a very Shibuya-kei lineup this year.
@ Ichihara Auto-camp ground, Star Village, Chiba
Lineup: Hideki Kaji, Bridge, Konishi Yasuharu, Keiichi Sokabe, more
Tickets: 2 days ¥13,000, 1 day ¥7,000
Day One, Day Two

July 28, 29, 30
The mother of all music festivals in Japan in a beautiful location with international and domestic artists over multiple stages.
@ Naeba Ski Resort, Niigata
Lineup: Gorillaz, Aphex Twin, Bjork, Queens of the Stone Age, LCD Soundsystem, Lorde, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥18,000, 2 days ¥34,000, 3 days ¥39,800
Day One, Day Two, Day Three

August 5, 6 + 11, 12
Huge festival over 2 weekends featuring popular Japanese artists.
@ Kokuei Hitachi Seaside Park, Ibaraki
Lineup: B'z, Love Psychedelico, Kyary Pamyu Pamyu, Polysics, Tokyo Ska Paradise Orchestra, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥13,000, 2 days ¥24,500, 4 days ¥42,000
Day One, Day Two, Day Three, Day Four

August 5, 6
Some of Tokyo's most interesting experimental bands between 3 venues in the same building.
@ O-West/O-Nest/7th Floor, Shibuya, Tokyo
Lineup: Groundcover., Limited Express (has gone?), Lostage, Energish Golf, Oshiri Penpenz, aoiswimming, more
Tickets: 5th ¥3,500, 6th ¥3,800, 2 days ¥6,000
Day One, Day Two

August 6
This year is the 10th anniversary of this urban Japanese festival.
@ Kasai Rinkai Koen, Tokyo
Lineup: Denki Groove, Hana Sekitori, Towa Tei, Taiiki Okazaki, Zombie-Chang, more
Tickets: ¥10,800

August 19, 20
Large urban festival with a lineup covering a wide range of genres.
@ ZOZO Marine Stadium & Makuhari Messe, Chiba
Lineup: Cavin Harris, Foo Fighters, Black Eyed Peas, Man With A Mission, Kasabian, SUM41, more
Tickets: 1 day ¥16,500, 2 days ¥30,500
Day One, Day Two

August 18
All-night event the night before Summer Sonic.
@ Makuhari Messe, Chiba
Lineup: Kasabian, Liam Galagher, Justice, Orbital, Perfume, Denki Groove, Shobaleader One, !!!, more
Tickets: ¥11,500

August 19
All-night event during Summer Sonic.
@ Makuhari Messe, Chiba
Lineup: Mogwai, Ride, The Horrors, Beak, Cigarettes After Sex, Blanck Mass, Matthew Herbert, more
Tickets: ¥9,500

August 25, 26, 27
Three-day festival presented by Space Shower with popular Japanese artists.
@ Yamanakako Exchange Plaza Kirara, Yamanashi
Lineup: Elephant Kashimashi, Kana-Boon, [Alexandros], Cornelius, never young beach, more.
Tickets: 3 days ¥28,000, 2 days ¥19,000, 1 day ¥10,000
Day One, Day Two, Day Three

September 1, 2, 3
Indoor and outdoor jazz festival with paid and free performances.
@ NHK Hall/Yoyogi Park/WWW/WWWX, Shibuya, Tokyo
Lineup: Chick Corea, Amore&Lulu, The Danish Radio Big Band, Al Di Meola, Peter Erskine, more
Tickets: various prices, some free
Day One, Day Two, Day Three

September 9
Japanese rock bands in a park in Kawasaki.
@ Higashi Ogishima East Park, Kawasaki
Lineup: Awesome City Club, BIGMAMA, The Birthday, cinema staff, Creepy Nuts, Czecho No Republic, more
Tickets: ¥8,500

September 10
Eclectic lineup of Japanese artists in a park in Kawasaki.
@ Higashi Ogishima East Park, Kawasaki
Lineup: Guitar Wolf, BiS, Mikami Kan, Tomovsky, Ningen Isu, more
Tickets: ¥8,000

October 14, 15
Big heavy metal festival near Tokyo.
@ Saitama Super Arena, Saitama
Lineup: Michael Schenker Fest, Alice Cooper, Anthem, Apocalyptica, Cradle of Filth, Opeth, more
Tickets: TBA
Day One, Day Two

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Sunday, 23 April 2017

Alexa Dexa Japan Tour 2017

New York based artist Alexa Dexa is bringing her unique toychestral electronic pop solo project to Japan with her desk bells, baby grand toy piano, electronic beats and soulful voice. See her at Tokyo Gig Guide's Farm Party on the 28th!

24 April (Mon) Alexa Dexa, Chiharu Mitamura, Lunakate, Tsuji Shion
@ DUO Music Exchange, Shibuya

25 April (Tue) Alexa Dexa, HOWNOWMER (Australia), SHOKO, 神々のゴライコーズ
@ Basement Bar, Shimokitazawa

28 April (Fri) Alexa Dexa, Energish Golf, Barry Zogon Band, Youthmemory
@ Ruby Room, Shibuya

29 April (Sat) Alexa Dexa, Synth Sisters, Erb/Loriot, James Barrett + Masayo Hirota, Cranky Bhard
@ Imagination Pika Space, Osaka

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Wednesday, 19 April 2017

Karaoke guide

On nights when there are no good gigs on, why don't you get your music fix at karaoke? You could try singing enka with the old guys in "snack" and "pub" hostess bars if you like, but don't worry, in Japan most people sing in private rooms (karaoke "boxes") with their friends or colleagues. Karaoke outlets offering private rooms are absolutely everywhere in Japan. Just look for the logos of the chains detailed below or big places displaying signs with the word カラオケ (karaoke).

Going to karaoke is a common impromptu night time activity after drinking when people want to keep the party going. Karaoke boxes are also popular places to end up in after midnight when you have missed the last train.

Because they can be so cheap during the day, many people use karaoke boxes just as places to hang out or kill time. Some people use them for meetings or lessons, to practice their musical instruments or just take a nap. It's often just as cheap as going to a cafe but you get your own cozy private space.

About karaoke boxes

  • Prices listed are almost always per person and per 30 minutes, usually with a minimum of one hour.
  • Weekdays before 18:00 or 19:00 are always the cheapest times with the price sometimes under ¥100. The prices jump up significantly in the evenings and on weekends, on public holidays and the day before a public holiday.
  • Almost all karaoke chain branches have "free time" deals available, mostly for quieter times such as during the day on weekdays or after midnight. This means you can stay for as long as you like during that time and it usually works out cheaper if you stay for longer periods.
  • In most cases, you have to order at least one drink as well. Otherwise, you can order an all-you-can-drink alcohol deal or, in some places, free refill soft drink bar. If you are going to have a few drinks, the all-you-can-drink deals usually end up being worthwhile. In all branches of Uta Hiroba the prices already include the soft drink bar.
  • If you are a student, bring your student card as a lot of places have significantly discounted rates for students, particularly at Big Echo, Cote D'Azur and Karaoke Ban Ban.
  • If you plan to go to the same place a few times, it's worth becoming a member, especially at Big Echo, Karaoke Kan and Tetsujin, where members get big discounts.
  • Going to karaoke alone might seem strange but is absolutely okay, particularly during less busy times like during the day. However, a few places do charge a little more for "hitokara" (one person karaoke).
  • As tempting as it may be, karaoke places don't allow outside drinks to be brought in. If you are caught, an extra charge is likely to be added to your room.

OK, let's go to a karaoke box!

  • The prices should be displayed on a sign outside the karaoke place or inside
    the entrance.
  • At the front counter, tell the receptionist how long you
    plan you stay and how many people will be using the room. Sometimes you can choose a smoking or non-smoking room. Some places have a form that you have to fill out. In Karaoke Kan for example, you have to write your name (お名前), age (年齢), how many men (男) or women (女) are in the group, the total number of people (計), and how many hours (時間) you plan to stay. Sometimes you'll also have to write your phone number (電話番号). At some places, you have to become a member at first. The receptionist will help you if you don't understand anything.
  • You will usually then have to choose whether you want to just order one drink to start, a nomihoudai (all-you-can-drink) course, or a course which includes food.
  • They will often ask you which karaoke system you prefer: Joysound or DAM. It doesn't make a huge difference. Joysound has more songs than DAM, however you do find songs on DAM that are not on Joysound. Search their songs using the above links and choose which system has more that you like. DAM also tends to have more music videos rather than just the generic background videos, and is more likely to have furigana on the Japanese songs. Both have smartphone apps that you can use to search songs and even use as a remote control at karaoke. I find the Joysound app easier to use and it allows me to save my favourite songs.
  • Some places will have "concept rooms" with particular styles or themes that you can choose from. For example, Adores in Akihabara has various themed rooms. 
  • Some rooms are tiny with enough room for no more than four people to sit, and in some places huge group rooms are available complete with a stage and a dance floor.
  • Most places will have two or more microphones and remote control panels in the room but in some places they give them to you at the counter. They will also give you a receipt with the room number and start and finish times printed on it.
  • Some places will have costumes, and tambourines, maracas or other instruments that you can borrow and bring to the room.
  • In the room, use the touch screen remote control panel with the stylus to search for songs. Most places with newer machines will have English so look for the icon to change the language. You can search for songs by song title or artist. Unfortunately, the thick songbooks you used to get are becoming less and less common.
  • When you choose a song, it gets queued after the previously selected songs.
  • On the karaoke machine under the screen, there should be three or four knobs. One will be the volume of the music, one will be the microphone volume, and one will be for the amount of "echo" (reverb) on the microphones. There is sometimes another knob to control the volume of the BGM - the background music and ads which play when no song has been selected. You can also adjust the pitch. By the door you should find controls for the room lighting and air conditioner.
  • You can order more drinks and food from the room. In most stores, you order using the telephone in the room. Just pick up the phone and when a staff member answers, clearly state the items you want. In some stores you can order using the karaoke remote control panel or a separate remote control.
  • At some places, after you finish each song, the screen displays a rating on your singing performance and how many calories you have burned.
  • Around ten minutes before the allocated time is up, the phone in the room will ring. When you answer, you can ask to extend the time if you want to stay longer. Otherwise, say "hai, wakarimashita" and get ready to leave.
  • Bring the receipt to the counter and pay. Note that at some places you have to pay at the start.

Popular chains in the Tokyo area

You will find branches of this common chain near most larger train stations. The prices range a lot depending on the branch and the time but it is usually not expensive. They offer good discounts for members. A few branches have free refill soft drinks. Their food menu includes the standard fried things, snacks and pizza. Soft drinks start from about ¥380 and alcoholic drinks from about ¥540.
The price before 18:00/19:00 ranges from ¥80 to ¥386 depending on the branch and the day of the week. The price for after 18:00/19:00 ranges from ¥333 to ¥813.

Featured branch: Karaoke Kan Shibuya (Map)
The karaoke scene in the movie Lost in Translation was filmed in this branch. Before 19:00 the price is from ¥120 to ¥173. After 19:00 it's from ¥533 to ¥653. Free time before 20:00 is from ¥1346 to ¥1760, and after 23:00 from ¥1986 to ¥2653.

This is often the cheapest place because all the listed prices already include free refill soft drinks which means you don't have to pay for extra drinks. As it's so cheap, it tends to be popular with young people and can be a bit shabby. It's called 'Jankara' in some other parts of Japan. They offer 10% off if you make a reservation online. Alcoholic drinks start from ¥420. The Kanda West Exit branch has craft beer! The basic food menu includes fried chicken, chips, ramen and takoyaki. Before 18:00 the price ranges from ¥125 to ¥200, after 18:00 from ¥350 to ¥800, and after 18:00 including all-you-can-drink alcohol from ¥670 to ¥950, depending on the branch and the day of the week.

Featured branch: Uta Hiroba Ryogoku (Map)
After watching the sumo, pop in to this branch of Uta Hiroba, directly in front of Ryogoku station. Some of the rooms have a view of the station platform. 30 minutes is ¥145 before 18:00, and ¥350-¥440 after 18:00. Free time is ¥1010 before 20:00 and ¥1180-¥2180 after 23:00.

With a name meaning "Karaoke Ironman", this is quite a nerdy but fun karaoke chain and is generally not expensive. It is said to have the largest number of English songs and you can request English menus at the front counter. Some branches have special themed rooms and all have costumes to hire. Soft drink prices start from about ¥370 and alcohol drinks from about ¥500. Their food menu includes the standard fried things, snacks and pizza, as well as ¥500 lunches. The price before 18:00/19:00 can be as low as ¥25 and up to ¥312, and after 18:00/19:00 from ¥337 to ¥725, depending on the day of the week and the branch.

Featured branch: Karaoke no Tetsujin Koenji (Map)
This is a cheap branch of Karatetsu popular to visit after seeing a live concert at one of the nearby music venues. Prices before 19:00 are from ¥62 to ¥112, and after 19:00 are from ¥337 to ¥450. Free time before 19:00 is from ¥700 to ¥937, and after 22:00 is from ¥1600 to ¥2137.

BIG ECHO (ビッグエコー)
This is another very commonly seen karaoke chain which usually offers slightly nicer rooms. It tends to be a little more expensive than other chains but offers discounts for members, seniors and students, as well as discount coupons on their website. The food menu includes fried things, pizza and pasta. The price before 19:00/20:00 is from ¥100 to ¥320, and after 19:00/20:00 it can be as low as ¥300 and as high as ¥750, depending on the day and the branch.

Featured branch: Big Echo Shinjuku Higashi-guchi (Map)
Conveniently located near the east exit of Shinjuku station, this branch has a number of interesting themed rooms. It costs ¥200-¥300 before 19:00 and ¥500-¥653 after 19:00. Free time before 19:00 is ¥1200 and after 23:00 is ¥2000-¥3213.

PASELA (パセラ)
This place calls itself a resort with more luxurious rooms with decent food (English menu) and is famous for its giant honey toast. It's good for large groups and parties. Alcoholic drinks start from ¥480 and their all-you-can-drink soft drink or alcohol deals can be reasonably priced. The branches are in Ginza, Akasaka, Shibuya, Roppongi, Shinjuku, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Akihabara and Yokohama. Before 18:00, prices start from ¥232 and after 18:00 from ¥399.

Featured branch: Pasela Akihabara (Map)
In the otaku mecha of Akihabara, this unique branch of Pasela has anime and game themed rooms like Evangelion and Final Fantasy, as well as some cool Japanese retro style rooms. Before 18:00 rooms are ¥232-¥278 and after 18:00 it costs ¥454 for concept rooms and ¥574 for official collaboration rooms. There are lots of food and drink plans to choose from.

They usually offer some non-smoking rooms and there are some branches which let you bring in food and drink. You can check out their menus in English. Check out their coupons and campaigns. Before 18:00/19:00 the price can be as low as ¥10 and as high as ¥200. After 18:00/19:00 it ranges between ¥250 and ¥500.

Featured branch: Manekineko Yotsuya-sanchome (Map)
This branch not far from Shinjuku offers English menus with halal food and prayer rooms for Muslim customers. Outside food is also allowed to be brought in. Before 18:00, 30 minutes is ¥200 and after 18:00 it's ¥350-¥400.

COTE D'AZUR (コート・ダジュール)
There are discounts for students and coupons on their site. They have a basic izakaya style food menu and soft drinks start from ¥340 and alcohol from about ¥480. The price before 18:00 ranges between ¥50 and ¥380, and after 18:00 between ¥240 and ¥660, depending on the branch and the day.

Featured branch: Cote D'Azur Roppongi (Map)
There are some cool rooms in this branch including some with stages. Before 18:00, 30 minutes is ¥205. After 18:00, it's ¥410-¥496. Free time before 20:00 is ¥831 and after 23:00 is ¥1857-¥2160.

Joysound is a common karaoke machine system. They also have a number of nice karaoke stores around Japan, including some in Tokyo. They have discounts for students, seniors and members. The price before 18:00 starts at ¥160 and can be up to ¥340, and after 18:00 it runs from ¥450 to ¥750, depending on the day and branch.

Featured branch: Joysound Shinagawa (Map)
Here you can find rooms with live stages and musical instruments, high quality sound rooms, ladies' rooms and plush VIP rooms. Before 18:00, prices start from ¥340 with free time from ¥1280. After 18:00, from ¥750 and free time after 23:00 from ¥3150.

SHIDAX (シダックス)

This used to be a large chain but a lot of the stores have closed recently. They have some left in Tokyo including ones in Shinjuku, Asakusa and Roppongi. Soft drinks start from ¥400 and alcoholic drinks from ¥500. Before 18:00, the price ranges from ¥150 to ¥300, and after 18:00 it's generally between ¥250 and ¥400.

KARAOKE BAN BAN (カラオケバンバン)

The daytime prices are cheap and often include free soft drink refills. In the evening, some branches include free drinks too. Some branches also have darts and billiards. They offer discounts for students. The price before 18:00 is usually between ¥120 and ¥240, and after 18:00 it's from ¥240 to ¥530, depending on the branch and the day.
Their branches tend to be in the suburbs but they have a few more central locations like Ikebukuro, Koenji, Kita-Senju, Yotsuya, Asakusabashi and Kichijoji.

KARAOKE 747 (カラオケ747)

This cheap and often worse-for-wear chain has a number of branches in Shinjuku and Ikebukuro, but also one in Shibuya and one in Shinbashi. The prices are different in each branch and you can often get it cheaper if you negotiate with the touts out front. They have a standard junk food menu and alcoholic drinks start from ¥550.

1KARA (ワンカラ)
This chain, owned by the same company that owns Manekineko, has small soundproof rooms with headphones specially designed for people to do karaoke alone. It's generally not so cheap. There are stores in Akihabara, Ikebukuro, Ueno, Shibuya, Kanda, Koenji, Shinjuku and Kawasaki.

ROUND 1 (ラウンドワン)
Round One is a bowling chain which also offers karaoke, billiards and other activities. Their current locations in Tokyo are Odaiba, Ikebukuro, Itabashi, Minamisuna, Hachioji, Machida, Musashi-Murayama and Fuchu. Before 18:00, the price is between ¥260 and ¥400. After 18:00, it's between ¥430 and ¥490.

Useful Japanese for karaoke:

  • カラオケ   karaoke
  • 30分 (sanjupun) 30 minutes
  • フリータイム   free time
  • 飲み放題 (nomihoudai)  all-you-can-drink
  • ドリンクバー   drink bar
  • 会員 (kaiin)  member
  • 学生 (gakusei)  student
  • 月~金  Monday to Friday
  • 金・土・日・祝・祝前  Friday, Saturday, Sunday, holiday, day before holiday
  • ichijikan - one hour, nijikan - two hours, sanjikan - three hours
  • hitori - 1 person; futari - 2 people; sannin - 3 people; yonin - 4 people; gonin - 5 people; rokunin - 6 people
Karaoke machine:
  • マイク   microphone
  • エコー   echo/reverb
  • ミュージック   music
  • BGM  Background Music
  • キー   key
  • テンポ   tempo
Remote control panel:
  • 歌手名   artist name
  • 曲名   song title
  • 予約 or 転送   choose the song to play next
  • もどり or 戻り   return to the previous screen
  • 演奏停止   cancel the song currently playing

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