THERE is a ‘must do’ list when visiting many countries, and Japan is no different. Take a hot spring bath – check; take a bullet train – check; eat lots of Japanese food – check; sing karaoke with a group of friends – check. Niseko has its own fantastic hub of great karaoke bars and booths in Kutchan, the funky little traditional Japanese town located just a 10-minute bus ride from Hirafu village. The western take on karaoke has been to perform in front of the whole bar, but traditional Japanese style is in a ‘booth’ or ‘box’, with just your friends as an audience. Both are available in Kutchan, so if you’re a bit shy, you don’t need to get up in front of strangers. However, it’s often the ones who start out shy that end up being the hardest to pry from the microphone – especially after a few jars of liquid courage.
No one knows Kutchan like long-time resident and owner of Café Kaku, Shukin. So, here are some picks for the best karaoke bars in ‘the Kooch’, according to the ‘Monk with Spunk’…
1. Nozomi II
This is a bar-style karaoke and is great fun and great value. You can choose from ¥2,000 all you can drink for two hours, or ¥3,000 all you can drink until they close, which is often as late as 7am. Nozomi II have the most English songs in their system. They open at 9pm, but can open earlier on request. They’ll even pick you up and take you home for free if you give Eiji a call 090 6263 2328.
A private booth-style karaoke in the Wakayama building right across Miyako dori fom Be and World Sports Bar. Use of the karaoke room is ¥600 per hour for one person. They are open from 8pm to 2am, and have an all you can drink for ¥1,000 and hour for spirits, or ¥1,200 if you want beer included. They do have costumes you can borrow if you feel like dressing up.
Another booth-style karaoke above Wai Wai Okonomiyaki. Look for the red sign just a around the corner, a few doors down from Café Kaku on Miyako Dori. Mikan-sei is very popular with high school students for its afternoon special. They have two small rooms and one large room. Between 4pm and 8pm the small rooms are ¥500 per hour and the large room is ¥1,000. After 8pm, the two rooms are ¥2,000, and the one larger room is ¥3,000. Drinks are extra but very reasonable.
4. Do Re Mi
Once again, it’s karaoke booth-style, this time located above the Ramen bar in the Max Value car park. For hourly use of the booth for one person it costs ¥735, for two people ¥735, and three to five people it’s ¥1,000. Drinks are extra.
5. Snack Bars
All ‘snack bars’ have karaoke. ‘Snack bars’ are a style of hostess bar that charge a small entry fee, (usually ¥500), and this includes a small snack. They usually have a ‘bottle keep’ system, so you can pour your own drinks from your bottle. You have the option of having a lady sit with you, for which you pay an extra fee or you can buy them drinks. Karaoke is usually about ¥200 per song. Hiroko Snack, next to Blue Cielo, just around the corner from the Loaf Lounge, has a stage that you can get up on to do your thing.