Differences Between US and Japan Karaoke

Today, karaoke and momiji (autumn leaves). What a weird combination, eh?

Karaoke, the Japanese Art

I’m sure almost everyone reading this knows of karaoke, the famous activity of singing along with a pre-recorded background, usually pop songs. But did you know that it comes from Japan?

The name karaoke comes from the words kara 空 meaning empty, and oke, a shortened form of ōkesutora, the Japanese rendering of the English word orchestra. Empty orchestra. The first karaoke machine was invented by Daisuke Inoue in 1971 in Kobe Japan.1

Let’s get something out of the way before we go too in depth. In English we typically pronounce karaoke something like care-ree-oh-key2. This is wrong wrong wrong, and, furthermore, confusing to any Japanese present who may not recognize the word. The correct pronunciation is more like kah-rah-oh-keh.

One big difference between karaoke in Japan and the US is in the States karaoke is normally preformed in an open room, often a bar, in front of everyone in the bar. Usually there will be a designated night for karaoke—“karaoke night”—and the people in the bar will take turns going up to a platform to sing. In Japan it may have originally been similar, but these days the most popular way to do karaoke is in karaoke boxes, which are small rooms for only a single group, sometimes for only a single person. It’s a much more intimate way to do karaoke and may more appeal to the Japanese group mindset.

Daily Photo: Autumn At The Castle

This is the inner moat wall to Okazaki Castle. The main keep is just at the top (behind the building you see). One of the nicer things of Okazaki Castle is that it is surounded by Japanese maples and ginkgo trees, making or some beautiful scenery in Autumn.


  1. This is the same kara (空) as in karate (空手) by the way. 手 is hand, so karate is empty hand 

  2. I understand the logic of trying to force a loan word into English pronuncation rules, but we are hardly consistent on this, and even in that case shouldn’t the second syllable be ray instead of ree? Yet ree is what I always hear. Where does that e sound even come from? 


Publishing this website is my full-time job. If you enjoyed this article or photo, please consider supporting the site by becoming a member. There are some great perks. Read more.