Jankara (I think): An evening of karaoke
Most people know that karaoke was invented in Japan; the word derives from the Japanese for empty, kara, and orchestra ōkesutora, alluding to the use of a musical track with its main lyrics removed. So when in the country you should really take the opportunity to experience how the Japanese enjoy one of their modern “cultural” offerings. Unlike in Europe and the US, where karaoke is most often a public performance (or humiliation, depending on your viewpoint and the abilities of the singer!), in Japan it is more usually enjoyed in a private “karaoke box”, or small room, which a group of friends can rent for a fixed period of time.
We went to one of these establishments in Kyoto. At a reception desk in the lobby we (well, Andrew, as the only Japanese speaker in our group of eight) negotiated the price of a room for two hours. We then headed upstairs to find ourselves in a narrow, very pink room. At one end was the TV screen, round the other three walls low comfortable seating, and in the middle a table on which were two small machines – one for selecting songs and the other drinks. Our price of 2,600¥ per person (based on eight sharing) also included all we could drink, so the latter was as important as the music selection device! There was a wide choice of drinks – beer, plum wine, regular wine, sake and some spirits as well as soft drinks. We ordered via the machine and a waiter would knock respectfully at the door within minutes, carrying the tray.
But to the main point of the exercise, the singing! The machine thankfully had an English language button for selecting and lots of English language tracks as well as Japanese – certainly more than enough to keep us occupied for two hours. As the drinks poured in, the inhibitions fell, and by the end we had not only enjoyed enthusiastic performances of Japanese pop (by Andrew), Elvis (both Presley and Costello, by Chris) and Pat Benatar (by Sue), but had also joined in with some great group numbers such as Hey Jude and American Pie. The two hours were up all too soon and we reluctantly vacated the room and paid our fee back down at the lobby before hailing taxis to take us back to our ryokan.
To hear just how well Andrew and Sue entered into the spirit of karaoke (and how well they sang) check out my short video.
The next morning we were up and out quite early to make the most of our time in Kyoto, and headed to the bus station to catch a busRelated to:
Kyoto Station: An evening in the station (yes really!)
Kyoto Station is huge (the second largest in the country, after Nagoya) and as I mentioned in my Transport tip can be daunting to navigate as a traveller. But come back at your leisure, preferably at night, and you will find it an altogether different experience.
The station’s architecture is ultra modern, a real contrast to the historic temples that most people come to Kyoto to see. It may not be to everyone’s taste, but I loved it (I do tend to like modern architecture, if done well which this is). It makes a really bold statement in the centre of the city, and also serves its multiple functions effectively. Transport hub, shopping centre, entertainment complex, hotel – ou will find all this and more within this massive structure.
The station was opened in 1997 to coincide with the city’s 1,200th anniversary. The style is loosely futurist, designed by Hiroshi Hara who also designed the Umeda Sky Building in Osaka. It wasn’t universally welcomed as many thought it was inappropriate for so historic a city and some have blamed it for a recent flush of modern buildings in the city centre.
The statistics give some idea of the scale of this structure. It is 70 metres high and 470 metres from east to west, with a total floor area of 238,000 square metres. The central atrium is 60 metres long and at the west end is an imposing 171 step stairway. This latter is a great place to start your night-time explorations as it is illuminated and (when we were there at least) constantly changing. I haven’t be able to confirm whether this is a year-round feature or linked to specific seasonal events (in our case, Halloween) but do check it out to see whether there’s a “show”. I did a short video of the staircase but unfortunately my camera battery chose that moment to go flat so I wasn’t able to capture as many “scene changes” as I would have liked. But the still photos (photos one and two) give you some idea.
After watching this for a while we headed upwards to visit the 45 metre long Skyway, a sort of suspended aerial corridor which you can walk along for great views of the Kyoto Tower and the city at night. To reach this head to the 10th floor and go through a door to the left of the stairs which leads through a food hall to the Skyway. Keep your eyes open, as we missed this door the first time – it’s easy to not spot the sign to the right of the door or to think you are walking into a restaurant by mistake! And give this a miss if you have a problem with heights as you feel quite exposed up there even though surrounded by glass.
After descending from the Skyway we headed outside the station to investigate something intriguing we had spotted from above, the Aqua Fantasy show.
Sam & Dave's Club: Interesting
This nightclub was very interested with two levels. Saturday night was cosplay night and the staff members were dressed in various furry animal costumes. Mixed crowd and the music was dance, R&B and hip-hop. Sunday was much more dancehall, hip-hop and mega-weirdos.
The foreign guys are very aggressive and will dance/grab/grope you a lot. Japanese girls seem to tolerate this behaviour a lot, but I had to consistently vocalize my dis-interest. ¥1000 for women and ¥2000 for men.
Dress Code: Business Casual
There are plenty of options for nightlife in this city, but to be honest, some are not really to my taste and in other hand, after being out all day I have left little energy to go party at night either. But few good cold beers after dinner was always welcome and that was enough for me.
Bar This Way: International or what?
Bar This Way advertises as an international bar in Kyoto and if you wonder what would be so international about it, than read further. The bar is owned by a Dutchman and its no surprise that Bar This Way has several Dutch beers on their menu but besides that they also have Belgium beers and.. smoothies (Australian), handmade gyozasoup (Chinese) and besides that of course a long list of liquors etc. The staff can speak Dutch (of course!), German, English, Japanese and Chinese!
Dress Code: casualRelated to:
- Beer Tasting
- Road Trip
The Matching Temple: See the night lanterns at the Matching Temple
So you think I will recommend a nightclub, ha? Sorry, buddy! I rather want you to go to the Matching Temple and see the night lanterns! It is so beautiful when they lighted all those lanterns up! It was gorgeous!
Anyway, we went there and took a long walk to the shrine. It was a beautiful walk. It was very invigorating (I needed the walk to lose some pounds!).
We were in the temple around five in the afternoon and ended up walking for about an hour int it's scenic garden. It was getting dark when we were leaving. We were pleasantly surprised when we went out to the main gate because the temple keepers lighted up all the red and white lanterns! The temple was more beautiful at night!
Dress Code: Dress warmly especially when you go to the Temple in the Fall!Related to:
- Family Travel
- Budget Travel
Kyoto Station: Many People Many Things
From The main hall of Kyoto Station. You can take an escalator to the top. All along the escalator for about 8 stories thereare seating areas and many places for different shows. It was very busy and entertaining the night I was there. The roof also provides an excellent view of Kyoto
Maruyama Park: Celebrating the Cherry Blossom
Of course this is only possible during the cherry blossom time. It seemed that half of Kyoto's population gathered in the park on their reserved spaces, picknicking, drinking beer, singing and laughing. At the many stands you can buy snacks, drinks or souvenirs, then find yourself a nice place and watch the beautiful cherry trees and of course the local people enjoying themselves. There is one special willow-like cherry tree in the center of the park which is lit by spotlights, most people gather around this place.
We had an especially nice experience. We sat down next to some women, and one of them asked us some questions (in japanese, of course!). When she had her answer, she turned to her friends and told them what we had said. Then they all looked at us, smiling. Though understanding very little, we had much fun, and they even offered us some really strange snack and a cup of hot shoju.
Dress Code: No dress codeRelated to:
- Arts and Culture
The Victory Donkey (maybe): Kyoto Nightlife "wakada nai"
I have yet to experience the Kyoto club scene. Usually after a day of hiking up mountains to see temple after temple i'm exausted, so the last thing on my mind is cuttin' up a rug on a dance floor. But in the evening there's heaps of good restaurants for you to get your grub on. If you don't dig the whole traditional japanese food thing like myself then there is a restaurant called the 'Victory Donkey" or somethin' like that. It serves huge ass hambugers (minus the bun) with a side of salad and fries for a relatively cheap price. Greasy but tasty! The perfect remedy for the feeling of fatigued after a long day of temple searching.
Dress Code: Sweat stains on the armpits is expected from a tourist so its maybe okayRelated to:
- Family Travel
- Hiking and Walking
Jumbo Karaoke (karaoke Boxes): Karaoke!!!
Karaoke in Japan is a little different than in the west. You don't go to a bar and you don't sing in front of a bunch of strangers.
You go with your friends and you are put in a room with only the people you came with.
You can pik and sing as many songs as you want. You are billed by ythe hour but it is fairly cheep.
There are many many many Karaoke spots in Japan and especially in Kyoto but at our FAV spot you also get "nomihodai" all you can drink.
Dress Code: What you wear in. Just try to wear it out.
Kiyamachi: The bars
This street is the center of kyoto nightlife. You can see a pic of Kiyamachi on my homepage.
This is a pic of a small street off kiyamachi... This streethas one of Kyotos ,ost popular bars... A Bar.
Kiyamachi also claims home to ING, Africa, Hub, Rub-A-Dub, Haamid Kabaab and countless other bars and restaurants... What to do on a bored evening when you have money to burn???
Dress Code: Whatever you want. The Skys the limit.
Are you lookinging for grunge and smoke, fancy shmancy or hostess type bars?
They are all here.
STREET PERFORMERS ALONG SHIJO & KAWARAMACHI
There are street performers who play music along Shijo & Kawaramachi streets when it starts to get dark. Most of the performers are near the river & bridge (near Pontoncho). You can hear mostly jazz & rock.
I once saw a young man who made those balloon cartoon & animal figures. He was great! He made Snoopy, Winnie-the-Pooh, & other characters. Soooo cute!!
Choose a karaoke bar in the Pontocho district. Karaoke is about fun. You book a room with your group and pay by the hour. Drinks are usually free. There is phonebook size songmenu at the end of the book are the english ´populair´ songs. Choose a song grab a microphone and sing.
Ma chi parla italiano!?
Old Cliffie once heard a plaintive voice call across a crowded bar: Ma non c'è nessuno che sa parlare italiano? It was a sad Neapolitan pizza cook who had been in Japan for ten days and who couldn't speak English, let alone Japanese. On a night off from cooking pizzas for trendy young Japanese, he'd found his way to the Pig and Whistle, a British bar that provides an expatriate haven for middle-aged English teachers, thrusting young insurance brokers already dreaming of Singapore and promotion, and the occasional bewildered tourist. Good pub grub, especially when you are in time for their happy-hour special of a pint and a plate of food for 1100 yen - something of a bargain in Japan. The Pig - as it is affectionately called - is handily located opposite Sanjo-Keihan station. Time your visit right and you'll find old Cliffie sitting in the corner.
Bar Monte Bello: HipHop Shot Bar
This was absolutely the place we found on our night experiences... no cover charge and drinks (also food) for 300 Yen each... and best HipHop music guaranteed!Related to:
- Beer Tasting
- Food and Dining
- Theme Park Trips
We stayed 3 nights at Kyoto Granvia Hotel from Feb. 27 to Mar 1, 2008. We paid Yen 17,600 per night,...more
First thing when you enter this hotel is that you notice is that it has a small front desk area for...more
This hotel is situated a seven minutes taxi ride from the train station (about 7-800 yen) and five...more
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