My Night as a Diva

Only in Japan, folks. (photo courtesy of girl fantasies aside, I’ve always been shy. For a long time, the only thing worse than speaking in public was having to sing in public, i.e. at those end-of-the-year parties I had to attend while working at the Board of Education in a small Japanese town. I didn’t know many of the songs on the karaoke machine because they were in Japanese. There were some Beatles hits and Carpenters classics, but that’s about it.

I sometimes sing while listening to music, or when I’m by myself, doing something mindless, but I don’t regularly hang out at karaoke bars. My daughter, however, wanted to go. She enjoys trying out her rock star moves while attempting to follow the lyrics on the TV screen during music shows. To be honest, she’s not good at singing, but she has a good time.

My son likes to sing, too, and I can often hear him when he’s plugged in to his iPod, wailing away. He’s started going out to karaoke boxes with his friends. I’d heard rumors that he was pretty good, that he’d gotten nearly a perfect score on “Let it Go.”

When my husband suddenly suggested going out for karaoke last week, I thought it might be fun. The kids would enjoy it, and we’d be doing something as a family. I was pleasantly surprised that my son was willing to go with the rest of us.

We went to a karaoke club and rented a box (a room with a table, sofas, and a karaoke machine) and started picking out songs. A lot had changed since my last trip to karaoke. Instead of looking through a song book, there was now an electronic device that seemed to have every song in the world.  Also, the machine rated each performance.

My son, with his renditions of hits by Exile and One Direction, had the highest scores, and we started re-thinking his future. Maybe he had potential as a pop star. My daughter tried the theme songs to her favorite anime shows and stayed above 50 points. We realized it was a good exercise in reading and in voice control. My husband sang some Japanese songs that I didn’t know, and I tried “Rill Rill” by Sleigh Bells  “Come See About Me,” by the Supremes, for which I got one of the highest scores of the night.

Two hours and about 8,000 yen (approx. $80) later, our time was up. As we got ready to leave, I thought about how I would practice my Beyonce for the next time.








10 Songs that I’ve Attempted During Karaoke

Back when I worked for the Board of Ed, singing in front of my coworkers during office parties was more or less obligatory. I never really got over my extreme embarrassment, but I did come up with a few stand-by songs. Here are some that I sang with varying degrees of success:

1. You Are My Sunshine

This one shows up in just about every karaoke song book in Japan. This was my go-to number.

2.Top of the World

This was a close second. I sang this many times, while channeling Karen Carpenter.

3. Yellow Submarine

The Beatles remain very popular in Japan, even among young people, so even in the most remote corners of Japan in the late 1980s, this song was an option.

4. Hey, Jude

See above.

5. Stop! In the Name of Love

Being a big Supremes fan, I was always happy to find this one in the songbooks.

6. You Oughta Know

This was really difficult to sing, especially since I’m not one of those hardcore karaoke fans who practices beforehand. #karaokefail

7. Baby Love

See number #5 above.

8. Koibito ga Santa Claus

A popular Christmas standard in Japan, I sang this at least once.

9. Please Mr. Postman

Another Carpenters’ tune that I seemed to be able to manage.

10. Love Me Tender

A little bit too low for my vocal range, but I tried.


So what do you like to sing during karaoke?