Monthly Archives: January 2012

Karaoke for the Concerned

So it’s finally happened – you got the job, you’re moving to Japan. Maybe you’re nervous about the language barrier, maybe about the food, maybe you’re super-confident. That still doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ll be ready when your mandatory work party ends with you trapped in a small, smokey room with a microphone and ten of your closest, most intoxicated coworkers.

Some disclaimers: This about karaoke in Japan. This about the karaoke one goes to with one’s Japanese coworkers, usually after a party that included alcohol.  I recommend consuming a certain amount of alcohol. This is written by someone who once seriously considered throwing up outside a restaurant to get out of going to the karaoke parlor and will consider it a success if she doesn’t end up singing in public for the remainder of her time in Japan (18-30 months).

Now that you know me, tell me about yourself so that I can best help you.

I love karaoke! I used to go with my friends all the time in college, it was so much fun! Do they really go to karaoke after work parties?

Yes. Karaoke seems to be The after-party activity of choice among the organizations that I know of, followed by going to a bar and getting more drunk. Have fun. Make sure you eat something.

Karaoke? I thought that was a joke. What’s it like? Is it fun?

If you don’t mind singing, it’s quite fun. In Japan you go to a karaoke parlor, where you could be set up in anything from a rather cramped room to a sort of suave, bar setting. There’s a TV screen (or screens) where the lyrics appear, along with a music video. If the song is fairly recent and popular, the actual, official music video will be shown. If not, a stock video that vaguely corresponds to the song will be shown. These are usually pretty terrible and people will groan if two songs in a row have the same stock video.

There are microphones (either real or toys) and usually a portable screen that can be passed around the room so that people can select the next song or songs. There’s usually a huge selection of Japanese songs (obviously), along with some in English or Korean. The selection in these last two is variable, but I’ve always been surprised by the variety I can pull up. They have the Beatles and Lady Gaga, but also Sara Bareilles and pretty much everything else that managed to hit the Billboard Top 100 in the last 5 years.

There are drinks, both alcoholic and not. Sometimes there’s food – the classy place my workplace prefers serves little seaweed salads and fruit.

Hmm, I don’t know…I’m not that great a singer.

Don’t worry, most of your coworkers probably aren’t either. The do have the advantage of 1) nine years of compulsory education that almost certainly included music and 2) having done karaoke before. Pick something fun, maybe something that you can sing together and go for it. Get a wee bit drunk beforehand if that’s physically/mentally/emotionally possible (your coworkers are probably at least half-wasted).

No, really not that great a singer.

Ah. Hmm. Okay, here’s what I recommend:

First, you can put you coworkers off for  awhile. They’ll be sad, but you can usually beg off after the regular party, before they go to the karaoke place (pray that it’s somewhere else). Use your partner/kids/cat, if possible. They may get suspicious about your always forgetting to feed Fluffy before going out, but most of them will let it go. This is one of those times where you can be foreign and different and strange and use it to your advantage.

If possible, go to the karaoke place alone beforehand. You can get a tiny room for not much at most places and it’ll allow you to get used to the set-up. Pick a song that you like – if you’re not sure, I recommend Queen (We Will Rock You) or the Beatles (Hey Jude), something not super fast and with a certain amount of enunciation. Practice.

If you can’t go to the karaoke place by yourself (I can’t, mine’s a bar), sing at home, in your shower, whatever. You can find karaoke tracks for a lot of songs on YouTube or even iTunes. Use these. It’s harder than you think to sing properly when Lady Gaga isn’t right there providing back-up vocals. Familiarize yourself with the music alone, as much as possible.

The night of, gather courage however you can (I recommend alcohol) and go for it. If you suck, nobody will say anything unless they’re completely wasted. Ignore them, everyone else will be. Or laugh. If someone says something the next day, pretend not to understand. Or tell them you were so drunk you don’t remember. That’s reasonable here, as opposed to a sign of mental illness.

No, I mean I would rather cut off my left hand than sing in public.

Oh! Don’t worry, I totally understand, that was/is me. I hate singing out loud. Despise it. I can’t even really enjoy other people singing live unless they are very, very good.

First, like I said above, you can put them off for awhile. I managed it easily for five months and probably could have maintained it for at least a year. They’ll tell you it’s more about comraderie than singing well and they’re mostly right. Ignore them.

You can keep that up or you can rip the bandaid off. Get drunk, pick a song that you can muddle through, muddle through it.

If you’re as bad as you say (I was), they will cease to bother you. If one of them does, give them a meaningful, incredulous look.

You may be worried about it becoming something of a legend. Don’t. Bad singing does not top puking into a urinal. If someone does become annoying, apply the steps in the last part of the above section.

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12 on the 12th – Typical Day

My brain is broken – on Wednesday, I was all set to take 12 pictures on the 12th, to help kickstart my blogging in the New Year. Unfortunately, my camera battery was dead, so I spent the day recharging it and resigning myself to taking 13 pictures on the 13th. Which I did, yesterday.

Now, gentle reader, you are, at this moment, probably a tad puzzled, because a quick look at the calendar will show that Wednesday was the eleventh, not the twelfth. If I took my pictures yesterday (Thursday), that was the twelfth.

Yep. And I only realized that as I wrote the title for today’s post and noted that I had been writing 1/13 on my paperwork all day and…what day was it, anyway?!

I guess that makes this Friday the 13th. Huh. I’m really out of it.

Moving on! Twelve pictures, taken January 12, 2012, showing a typical day.

Good morning! And welcome to all of the snow, all of the time! It’s started snowing fairly regularly right before Christmas and except for a few warm days around the New Year’s weekend, when all of the snow slid off my roof and tried to kill me, none of it has gone away. I used to be pretty on top of clearing the doorway, but I’ve had to let it go for now since I don’t have the tools to chip away the stuff on my steps. In this picture, you can see the path I’ve been trying to maintain, with little success. Between new snow and the wind, most of work is undone by the time I get home. The path doesn’t even go all that far. My neighbors and I have been working hard, but there’s still a 10-yard stretch of high drifts that we despair of.

I’m lucky though, since the drifts form on the south side, away from my door. My neighbor, who was gone for almost all of Christmas and New Year’s never had a chance – he sort of has to clamber out of his house.

Crazy icicles hanging off my roof, along with all of the snow ever.

Back towards my door. I used to get to my car by going between the shed and my house (to the left), but the snow’s thigh deep there, so it’s a no-go until spring.

The next time I buy snow-boots, I’m shooting for calf or thigh height footwear. Actually, after I took this, I went back inside and changed them out for my rain boots, because I was sick of sinking into drifts over my ankles and filling my shoes with snow.

Now, you may be wondering why on Earth I’m wearing tights and a skirt in this weather. Unfortunately, such are the perils of spending 20 minutes a day engaged in snow removal and eight hours in an overheated office.

My neighbor’s bright orange ‘mama dump’ – mama dump-truck. Much more efficient for snow removal than your average snow shovel. Of course, by the time I clued in, the store was sold out.

The pile of snow in front of my house, left by the plow that “clears” the street.

Hiding behind the pile.

The sky behind the Board of Education – looks fairly peaceful, but the wind was blowing like crazy – it hit 19.9m/s (about 45mph) that day.

What I spent most of the day doing – studying kanji (Chinese characters used in Japanese). I’m studying for a test two weeks hence and am trying to take advantage of school being out to cram as much practice in as possible.

The path again around 5PM, with some wind damage. You can see where the mailman flailed his way to my neighbor’s, after leaving the path.

Someone else, the propane man most likely, had decided to chance the path between the house and the shed. I was alarmed to discover this hanging out there:

Probably need to try and knock that down before it kills someone.

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