Everybody knows how popular karaoke bars are in Japan so, if you are looking for a good night out in Tokyo it is well worth stopping into one. Thought, traditionally, the locals like to book private rooms where only their friends can watch them sing their favourite hits while their own waiter delivers refreshments, there are also some wilder, western-style joints available for those that want to strut their stuff on stage.
Chief amongst them is Smash Hits on Hiroo Shotengai. Here the, often very drunk, audience sits in stadium style seating around the singers, while they belt out their favourite tunes to rapturous applause. The catalogue of songs on offer is very much well known and English and it is very popular with both ex-pats and locals alike.
Another popular variation on traditional karaoke in Tokyo is offered at Gigabar in Minami-Aoyama, where you can get on stage with a live backing band to rock out a classic number. You don't have to be the front man either, as they'll let you play guitar, bass or drums too. If you're worried about a live band limiting the choices, don't be. These guys can knock out note perfect renditions of over 200 well-known tunes, including hits by Led Zeppelin, The Stones, The Beatles and more. As you can imagine, it's very much geared towards rock, so if you're the long hair and leather trouser type you'll be in heaven.
Jan Ken Pon is another venue that mixes live music with karaoke. Nestled in the heart of the busy Ebisu neighbourhood, it features an excellent cover band whose sets are interspersed with performances by the clientele. We recommend getting there in the late evening, as it sometimes takes a while to get going.
If you fancy a step into a uniquely Japanese world, then Lovenet in Roppongi could be what you are after. Like the traditional bars, customers get to choose their own private room in which to sing and drink, though these rooms are quite unlike anything you'll find elsewhere. For example, in the Aqua Suite you and your party get to sing from the comfort of your very own Jacuzzi. In the Heaven Suite, you'll find a hypnotic room with crystals beneath the glass floor. This all comes at a serious cost, however – it's about 220 pounds for the hot tub room, and that's one of the cheaper options.
Of course, you could always just go for the more traditional, laid back and, generally, less expensive option and drop into an old-school private booth bar. The most famous is probably Shindax, which is notably more comfortable, larger and more inviting than the average karaoke spot. You can get a suite for up to 40 people and the pricing is pretty competitive.
One last tip for movie fans: if you fell in love with Tokyo after watching Sofia Coppolla's Lost in Translation and fancy recreating some of its most famous scenes, then you'll want to take a trip to Karaoke Kan on Udagawa-cho. It's the bar in which Bill Murray performed More Than This in the movie.