Singing Solo: Trying Hitokara at 1Kara
By Lynda Deaver
As much fun as karaoke with your boss and coworkers may be, sometimes you just want to belt out your favorite songs without interludes of enka or the Beatles. Alternatively, perhaps you want all those enka and Beatles songs to yourself. In either case, you might find a new hobby in “hitokara” (ヒトカラ): going to karaoke alone.
The hitokara trend picked up starting mid-2000s, and several companies have taken note. 1kara is the result of at least one company that saw an opportunity. Owned by Koshidaka Holdings, which is most known for the karaoke box Manekineko, 1kara caters exclusively to those who want to sing their hearts out all alone.
The 1kara website refers to its stores as “ships”, so it only makes sense that it refers to the individual karaoke rooms as “pits”. The entire decor of 1kara, with it’s various “zones”, stark colors, and angular shapes, does evoke the atmosphere of a spaceship.
The advantages of going solo to karaoke at a hitokara box start at the door. No dreaded “何名様ですか” (“How many in your party?”) question, and no pitying/suspicious looks from other guests. Like most other karaoke places, you’ll be asked to register and will be given a member’s card upon entering for the first time.
Before going, be certain to take a look at the 1kara website [Japanese] for information about campaigns. When I went to the 1kara in Akihabara, they were having a campaign in which if you discovered 1kara from their website, you can register for free, use the basic headphones for free, use the drink bar for free, and, on top of that, have a whole hour of karaoke for free. The regular price for ½ hour of karaoke and drink bar on the weekend at 1kara in Akihbara is 490 yen, so the campaign was a good deal.
After signing up and confirming any discounts, you get to choose your karaoke machine and headphones. The karaoke rooms don’t have speakers so you have to use headphones, but if you bring your own, you won’t have to rent ones from 1kara. If you are a woman, you also have the option of a room in the women-only zone.
The karaoke box itself is just enough room for one person. A big comfy chair sits in front of the karaoke machine, the TV and the condenser microphone. On top of the karaoke machine is a mixer for the more serious karaoker. For the truly dedicated, 1kara allows customers to bring instruments, as all its rooms are soundproof.
The Premium Dam karaoke machine didn’t have any Three Dog Night songs, so I was deprived of the joy of singing “One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do” alone in a karaoke box. Still, enough visual kei and American oldies were available that I kept busy for the whole hour. Near the end of your session, a 10-minute warning will flash at the bottom of your TV screen.
Once you’ve created a member’s card, you can go to any 1kara in the country. The first 1kara shop was opened near Kanda Station, Tokyo, and currently, 1kara has 13 locations, most of them in Tokyo.
Have you ever done hitokara?