On Saturday night, a group of us went out to karaoke to celebrate on of the new JET’s, Julia’s, birthday. As we crowded into the room and settled in, I wondered once again why karaoke is so popular. For me, if it’s not with the right people, I really don’t like karaoke. It’s loud, you can’t talk to your friends, my throat is always killing me by the end of it, etc etc. But I finally accepted something I’ve been struggling with for a while: it’s because belting out music in your own home/apartment is pretty socially unacceptable.
Living in my old concrete apartment, I never worried about disturbing the neighbors. I had a few kids living in my building, so I know for a fact that not everyone was silent. But even so, I never heard one of my neighbors once I was in my apartment. I used to blast music, tv, or whatever, without worrying. I would sing and rock out as needed.
But then I moved. While my apartment is so much better than the old one in almost every single way, the sound proofing leaves a lot to be desired. I heart plates being moved, doors sliding, chairs being dragged, and occasionally voices. My bedroom is almost silent (now that I found a way to muffle the sounds from the rooster outside), but I’m pretty sure my neighbors don’t appreciate how often I have Netflix running in the background.
I don’t know if it’s from a lack of insulation, but I was really surprised when I first realized that my beautiful and modern apartment sucked at muffling the outside world. It seems to me that if my apartment is like that, it’s probably pretty common all around Japan. (Not making sweeping and broad generalizations or anything.) In a lot of places in Japan, people live in such close quarters that being a respect (read: quiet) neighbor is considered to be nearly mandatory (or, you know, super polite and important for maintaing the peace).
Karaoke is a space of inverted social norms that allow people to cut loose and be as loud as they can. In Japanese society, I don’t know of many other spaces like that. In especially crowded big cities, karaoke is probably even more important to maintain the peace. Karaoke is so integral to maintaing one’s sanity, I think, that some people even book solo rooms for karaoke, just so they have a space to be loud. And it’s perfectly normal and culturally accepted.
Is all of this going to stop me from dancing around my apartment, rocking out to songs after a long day? Probably not. Will I ever spend money to do a solo session of karaoke? Probably not. But karaoke is definitely something I’m working on enjoying. If not for the stress relief of shouting into a microphone, than for the friendship building part of it.