Karaoke ’til dawn: Modern Traveller’s postcard from Tokyo

Karaoke 'til dawn: Modern Traveller's postcard from Tokyo

Watching the sun come up with sore throats, we found out the fun way that the Japanese capital is one stellar place to pull an all-nighter.

WORDS & PICTURE BY CHRIS ROWLANDS

I’ve lost count of how many Asahi beers we’ve sipped between songs. My throat has taken on a Joe Cocker quality, raspy and painful after numerous numbers wailed with new friends at a TV screen above the bar. A Japanese man who hasn’t touched a drink all night is suspiciously energetic, despite the clock approaching 5am.

Welcome to Tokyo – a city that comes alive at night, where sake and sushi are only the start, and where karaoke is almost never the end.

It was, I insist, with simple intentions that I set out on my final night of three in the Japanese capital.

“I’d like to do some karaoke,” I informed the group. Quite innocently, in fact. I’d never been to a karaoke bar and, whilst the delicious fish meals of the previous evenings had done plenty to assure me that a future return to Tokyo would be a tasty one, I was determined to sing my heart out before we boarded our plane the next morning.


“murky memories of a rambunctious night became punctuated by the quintessential neon lights which bathed the teeming streets in a daylight glow”


I should, arguably, have known things might get out of hand when a member of our travelling troupe suggested that, for the easing of jet lag, we naturally ought to power through the night, sleeping instead on the flight.

That, it turns out, was a one-way ticket to butchered Fleetwood Mac classics, surprisingly rhythmic Limp Bizkit rap-alongs and, of course, the necessary rendition of My Way.

Hopping from a pokey basement beer cellar to an equally cosy underground karaoke joint, my murky memories of a rambunctious night became punctuated by the quintessential neon lights which bathed the teeming streets in a daylight glow (despite the hazy darkness of the sky).

Pausing at a pedestrian crossing, our evening was oddly interrupted by the wails of the Tokyo fire department. Attending a downtown blaze in excessive numbers (due, according to an American street marshal, to a recent tower block fire), these gleaming machines were an exclamation point of crimson surreality in an evening of meandering routes and murdered melodies.

Piling with foreign glee into yet another singalong spot – this time a subtly signposted upstairs bar recommended by a friend of a friend – our gaggle of weary travellers (now rather depleted in number) might have caused surprise, but there was no frosty reception.


“it was within minutes that the microphones found their way into our unsteady palms, the TV once again fired up to words slurred”


Rather, it was within minutes that the microphones found their way into our unsteady palms, the TV once again fired up to words slurred, the singers unbalanced by the swaying embrace of novel acquaintances ever ready to join the chorus.

At some point a dartboard was discovered, whilst quieter locals laughed over nibbles in the corner at this rowdy coming of the British, encouraged wholeheartedly by their less sober compatriots.

Song after song, drink after drink, a heady cocktail of sleep-deprivation and unerring excitement saw the evening become a blur of slurred verse and bleary-eyed smiles, ending only with the realisation that bags needed still to be packed back at the hotel.

With Instagram accounts exchanged and fumbling photos taken, our time in Tokyo was over – and we did it our way.

2 replies »

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s