Want to practice your Japanese speaking outside the classroom, but don’t know any Japanese people yet? Worried about your pronunciation? Want to be able to read hiragana mega-quick? Then get yourself down to your local karaoke place and get singing.

Karaoke is a popular pastime in Japan, and people young and old like to hit the mic after work or class and sing a few numbers. Unlike karaoke in the west, Japanese karaoke happens in a cozy, soundproof room, with no strangers or weird drunk people watching you, so you can sing as badly as you want without consequences. You can go in a group, or you can go by yourself, though some karaoke chains charge extra if you’re alone.

Karaoke chains charge per 30 mins, and usually require you to order a drink as well. If you want to sing for several hours you can go with the free time option instead, which allows you to stay as long as you want for a set fee. Going before 5pm is always cheaper, and some chains offer discounts if you download their app or have a student ID.

For those of you in and around Tokyo I recommend Utahiroba. It’s cheap, and there’s a drink bar included in the price. If you sing for an hour on a weekday around 3pm, it costs about 300 yen total. With unlimited drink refills. Yes please.

There are two main karaoke systems in Japan: DAM, and Joysound. In my experience DAM tends to have more songs by western bands and artists, including EDM songs and British indie-rock bands. Joysound has more obscure anime and game songs though, so pick whatever you’re in the mood for. Both have English menus, but you generally need to input the song and artist name in hiragana if they’re Japanese.

And off you go! Sing along to the lyrics. What’s that, there’s no romaji? Well, what did you expect! We’re here to practise Japanese after all! All the kanji has furigana, so it’s a good way to learn new words. You can restart the song and fast forward it as much as you want.

Master that one anime song no one recognises anymore.

But there’s nothing wrong with singing some old western classics. There’s plenty of ABBA and Madonna and Bon Jovi to keep everyone happy.

The lyrics aren’t always right though! Keeps you on your toes.

There’s several Karaoke Utahiroba branches in Ikebukuro, and one in Takadanobaba, so ISI students can easily hit the mic before or after class. Give it a try, and you might be surprised by your Japanese speaking abilities afterwards!