Tuesday, March 6, 2007

Uniquely Japanese?

I have two things I want to write about today, of which I suppose are kind of characteristic to Japan though not necessarily unique.... well, let's see.

One is about karaoke. In Tokyo alone there are more than one thousand shops that we call "karaoke box" which is a place you go in to sing songs (I'm pretty sure you know what karaoke is). These came out during the 1980s and quickly became part of our culture that simply cannot be cut apart from our daily lives (wow, unimaginable).

For those who don't have a clear vision or imagination of what it's like, it's a place that has several separate rooms (not exactly "boxes" like phone booths) each with karaoke machines and you can go in to sing your favorite songs from all time favorites, latest hit singles, from J-pop, enka to imported songs. One room hosts about 4-10 people in larger rooms and the rooms, although most times they don't have such good acoustics, lets you sing (or shout) in full volume with music. The average money you spend is about 500 yen per hour, plus drinks and food which is usually required. Rates vary widely depending on day and time. Anyway.

Karaoke boxes are extremely popular among Japanese mostly from middle school students up to working men in their 50s. Students hang out in karaoke boxes in a group of two to five more or less after school. It is part of the routine dating spots for couples too. The most popular and common use of the boxes are for after-parties or after-after-parties among college students and working people. People get together for dinner and then after a couple of drinks and food they go into karaoke boxes for another drink or two. This is a very typical scene you see if not engaged on Friday and Saturday nights.

Well there was a report on the news the other night that an increasing number of people are suffering polyp in their throats from overuse of throat by karaoke. Unlike singing out loud at home or in your car or just humming along the music, karaoke (naturally) puts you in an atmosphere and feeling that you want to shout out and sing in the loudest and best voice you have. For those who are good at singing and know how to control the voice there is nothing more soothing than singing, but for those who aren't good or unused to it the singing parties are throat killers. As a result from over-singing people get polyps in their throat, and a Japanese doctor recently named this "karaoke polyp".

One is likely to happen when singing songs that have high notes, which is steadily increasing these days. The report noted that high note songs are increasing because many of the music today are composed digitally, and it is easy to make high note songs with digital technology which wasn't a conspicuous tendency for composing with acoustic skills. When high note sounds are made the vibration of the vocal cords increase by five times, and that sudden and high impact activity literally bullies the vocal cords. In addition, the jumping and the dancing that oftentimes accompany the singing escalates the creation of the polyp.

Karaoke polyp can be a minor threat as it doesn't always happen but is yet a threat because it can happen to anyone anytime. There are ways to prevent it though. A professional voice trainer suggested that relaxing your body with simple exercise (especially around your neck and shoulders) before singing lightens the strain on your throat, and also warned that facing upwards at high keys which happens a lot would only kill your throat. The namer doctor of karaoke polyp suggested to be quiet for three minutes after singing three songs. That's not too hard, I guess.

This has become long. I think I'll save the other one for tomorrow.

Today's update on Japan Mode:
Live Action Manga (manga-drama review and requests) - it is a rather personal, subjective review on the live action TV drama of Nodame Cantabile (it was the best one that I could comment on in terms of original - drama comparison). I think you'll find the other page more interesting though, which is a list of manga titles that Japanese people wish to see live action made in Japan and in Hollywood. You can see quite a bit of a difference here.

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