Karaoke in HK vs Seoul vs Tokyo

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Karaoke is my all-time favorite hobby, so I’ve been to many places in Tokyo and Seoul. I was already a master of the Japanese karaoke machines since I’ve used them since I was 10, but after I came to Seoul, I quickly adapted to the Korean remote control and selection of songs.

When I traveled to Hong Kong, I got a chance to enjoy some karaoke there as well, but was surprised by how different the price, trend, atmosphere, and machines were.

Here are some differences that I’ve noticed from karaoke rooms in these three cities.


Hong Kong

Overview

I’ve been to only one karaoke in HK, so I’m a bit biased on this one. My friend took me to RedMR, which had a more luxurious feel with a dim lights and a red and black color theme. When we got to the front desk at 7pm, they just showed us a menu, which was a set price which included a meal, dessert, 2 alcoholic drinks, and 4 hours of karaoke. Since we had to focus on eating first, we focused on watching some beautiful music videos (the real ones by the singers).

Price

~170 HKD/person (22 USD)

Paid at the end

Karaoke machine

A touch screen that is next to the TV screen. Very inconvenient when you have to go back and forth from your seat to the screen. It shows the profile pictures of artists. You’re able to search from genre, song title, singer gender, solo/group singer, singer name, or handwriting a Chinese character. It didn’t have all the Japanese, Korean, and English songs that I wanted to sing.

Music Videos

Had many real music videos (instead of those awkward videos made for karaoke machines) from K-pop, and J-pop. Some of the songs only had a music video version, which didn’t have lyrics, so I couldn’t sing along.

HK Karaoke Chain: RedMR


Seoul

Overview

Karaoke is called Noh-rae-bang in Korean. Solo karaoke is not common in Korea. Most of the rooms are designed for big groups. The local stores are at the basement or on the second floor of very old looking buildings, so it sometimes looks shady… But some are actually not that bad when you go inside.

The best places are the one that lets you pay first, and then just gives you a bunch of extra minutes. They never overcharge you for that. The normal places just gives you 15 extra minutes. The big chains with pretty rooms rarely give you extra minutes because there are always people waiting in line.

Price

~10,000 KRW/hr/room (~10 USD)

Seems like you usually pay first.

The big chains usually set the price per person.

Karaoke Machine

The book allows you to choose only from song titles, or recently added songs. The remote control, which are only buttons, allows you to search from singer name, song title, and lyrics. They regularly update Korean, Japanese, and English songs.

Music Video

They have real music videos, but they sometimes play a different song’s music video from the same singer. The backgrounds of English songs are usually boring scenes from the city or an animal just lying in the safari. Some upbeat songs have random 3-D hip-hop characters dancing along with the music.

Korean Karaoke Chains: Soo Nohraebang


Tokyo

Overview

Where the history of karaoke started! There are many chains in Japan, and some are focused on the lower price while others are focused on the more luxurious feel. Seems like there are more unbelievably good deals the further you’re away from the city.

What is unique about Japan’s karaoke culture is that solo karaoke is becoming normal! Some people call it Hito-kara=ヒトカラ, which is an abbreviation of hitori(one person)-karaoke, and people choose to do that because they don’t have to worry about impressing others. No one will judge you for the songs you choose, you can miss notes when you practice some new songs, and you can relieve your stress. I miss doing this!

Price

80JPY/hr/person~ 500JPY/hr/person or by the room (~1 to 5 USD)

Better deal for solo singers.

Usually pay at the end.

The front desk calls you at the last 10 minute mark. You can usually stay for a few minutes longer because the machine let’s you, and you just have to voluntarily go back to the counter to pay. But sometimes they’re pretty strict about the minutes (sometimes even charge for the extra minutes you stay).

Karaoke Machine

A touch screen remote control or numbers from a book. The touch screen allows you to search from birth year songs, genres, rankings, recent history, singer names, and song titles. The book allows you to choose from artists or song titles. There are many medleys. Chinese, Korean, and English songs regularly updated.

Music Video

A lot of awkward old videos with weird story lines, bad acting, and semi-attractive or not-so-attractive actors. More expensive places have a greater percentage of the real music videos.

Karaoke Chains
カラオケ館、歌広場、シダックス、ビッグエコー、まねきねこ


In Southern California, you’d be able to try all three different Asian  karaoke machines at different Karaoke stores, so if you want to try all three it’s convenient, but it’s also set at a higher price. They also don’t have a solo karaoke culture either, so I couldn’t go as often as I wanted to.

What are some things that you notice about karaoke?
Which karaoke machine has many of your favorite songs?

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