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A Japanese Pastime: Karaoke by Storyaboutagirl

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I love music, and by extension, this is probably the reason I also adore karaoke.  There’s just something about hearing a song for the first time, having it touch you and thinking that would be a great song for karaoke.

Before I travelled to Japan, I like many others, considered karaoke to be an event held at a pub every so often, or something you took part in at a holiday camp, until I was introduced to it by a Japanese friend I was staying with.  In Japan karaoke is a little different due to the introduction of the “karaoke box” around fifty or so years ago and it’s starting to come to the UK too.

In Japan karaoke is something that many different types of people enjoy, both young and old.  I've met many older ladies who enjoy it and people have often commented to me that when school is cancelled due to weather warnings that they've seen groups of high schoolers making reservations.  Children are taken by parents and grandparents, groups of workers go after work dinners and couples go there on dates. It is a great way to blow off steam, or to practice your Japanese as it offers you a way to speed read kanji and Japanese characters.

Karaoke can also be done alone and there are many different karaoke places you can visit.  These are made up of varying sized private rooms which are equipped with large TVs and microphones, however some of the bigger ones might have a stage if they are designed for parties and you may be offered marracas or tamborines.  The system in the room is fully automated.  You use a kind of tablet to choose your song, or book to find the number of it, then register it using the tablet, and sing along.

Depending on the machine you can also enjoy MVs of your favourite artists or clips from the anime your song is from.  The AMVs might be the actual opening played on loop, or various scenes.  If there is no MV or AMV available for your track then it is usually a video which contains amateur actors acting out a kind of story or montage of clips suited to the theme of the track you are singing.  The types of videos you get are also dependent on the machine you choose.  Recently I was told that Joy Sound has the most foreign songs on it and I believe the most anime videos.  However, I usually go for Live Dam as it almost always has the furigana (readings) over the kanji and more tracks by the artists I like.  Recently a new Live DAM Machine has been released which offers features to create the experience of being live on stage however, I’ve yet to try it.

The machines also offer a few other features.  Two that I like are the rating system and anime voice acting (only available through Joy Sound).  There are two types of rating system and the quality varies from machine to machine, as well as its age.  There is one where you can “compete” and are ranked against other people who have sung the song.  The other measures your performance and gives you a bar across the top you can follow, like the one in the game Rock Band, and provides you with a feedback sheet which also tells you the average score for the song.  If you are a member you can save your scores.

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For the anime voice acting you choose a clip from an anime (the list isn’t that extensive and is limited to popular and older series from example Macross Frontier and Lupin III), the clip is then played twice, once as the clip and again with the script.  Then it’s your turn, you follow the words like you would karaoke and finally they play the clip with your attempt at the lines.  Usually you need two people, so it is a fun game to try with friends.

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Another anime related anime experience you can have is in one of the decorated rooms.  There are lots of themes.  I’ve seen some for sports teams and one for Takarazuka but there are also plenty of anime themed ones. As well as, at certain places, rent costumes, which is good for a party.

My favourite experience however, was at karaoke kan.  This particular chain offers small booths for solo karaoke where you can also practice if you play an instrument.  It has a professional microphone like the ones you can find in recording studios.  You are given a set of headphones and can sing without interruption.  It’s also quite reasonably priced, as most karaoke experiences are.  They can get expensive though if you start adding on the food and drink that most places serve as extra.  Having said this many places offer a nomihodai plan (as much as you can drink for a set time at a set price).

If you really enjoy singing I recommend trying karaoke in Japan as it is cheap and fun.  Most places are by the half hour, but also offer free time, so you can sing for several hours (it usually works out cheaper if you are going to sing for 3 plus hours).  It’s a great way to celebrate, make friends, practice your Japanese and if you need to to kill time.  I hope you enjoy it as much as I do!

#storyaboutagirl

My Visit... Square Enix Artina Building by Storyaboutagirl

Like many people Square Enix has had a huge impact on my life.  When I was a University student I loved Final Fantasy and Kingdom Hearts.  Whilst I was in Japan as a student I learnt that there was a Square Enix shop in Shinjuku.  I remember trying to find it on a trip to Tokyo, but failing miserably.

Over time my interest in the video games has waned but over the course of the last few years I’ve discovered that the company has also had a hand in many manga and anime I’ve enjoyed.  Despite that, after seeing pictures online of the infamous Sephiroth statue housed at the store I decided that I was curious enough to visit it.  What I didn’t realise however, was that the Square Enix store I had decided to visit had closed about two to three years ago.

Instead a new store has opened, Artina.  Just a few stations away from where the previous store was located and having a little time, I couldn’t resist a visit. Although I never had a chance to go to the previous store from what I understand from the research I did the new store is a lot smaller and includes a café, unlike the store that was located near Yoyogi.

The new store, according to the Artina website, can be accessed from the A3 exit of Higashi Shinjuku station, however it is a little difficult to find.  Once you come out of the exit, you need to walk across the courtyard and up the stairs, then follow the long path down to the store.  Eventually, you’ll see a round, white, capsule like building.

The inside is split into two.  A white section, which contains a small shop and a café and a darker display area which houses a collection of the more expensive items, including jewellery and action figures.  They also stock the more expensive play arts figures, not only for Kingdom Hearts and Final Fantasy, but also from other games and comic books.  All items are available to purchase if they haven’t sold out. 

The café serves a number of Final Fantasy themed drinks, including blue and red materia and various kinds of potions.  As for food, there are both savoury and sweet items with a unique touch, such as parfaits with chocolate buster swords and Yuffie’s shuriken, or pancakes decorated with powdered chocolate in the shape of moogles and chocobos.

I decided to try the high potion, a non-alcoholic cocktail made with mint and ginger ale.  Upon ordering I was asked by the waiter if I would prefer a Dragon Quest or Final Fantasy coaster and ended up with a cute cactuar coaster to take with me as a memento of my visit.  The drink itself was pretty delicious and what I would consider reasonably priced all things considered.  If you have some time and it isn’t too busy I would recommend stopping for a drink or snack.

Surrounding the café is a small shop, which has cheaper items, like keychains, plush toys and handtowels (a very popular gift or souvenir in Japan.  They are also a relatively cheap option and very handy, considering that many Japanese public toilets still lack hand dryers and/or paper towels).  There is also a small listening station, with a shelf full of sound tracks and maybe a few DVDs, so you can check that you’ve found what you are looking for before you buy it.

However, the crowning glory of the store is, for want of a better word, the display room.  The centre piece of the room is a large red crystal, hanging over a sizable collection of material.

Whilst, the installation is spectacular and really quite pretty, I was still slightly disappointed that Sephiroth seems to have disappeared.  Overall, whether you are a huge fan of Square Enix or one of their franchises, or you only have a small interest it is still worth a visit, even if it is just to browse. 

#storyaboutagirl     

[Desktop Folder Icons] Anime Summer 2014 by Alexander Neri

It’s been a while since my last post, and here’s something for everyone! Presenting folder icons for this season: Summer 2014. This pack contains .ico files that you can use in organizing your anime library (assuming that you, like me, keep one on the hard drive) so you can see your folders at a glance, aside from the obvious reason of making it look better.

How to customize? Just right-click the desired folder to modify and hit [Properties], then at the bottom of that tab click on [Change Icon]. Then select the .ico file to use

Anyway, the pack contains the following titles that is aired this season:

  1. Ai Mai Mi ~Mousou Catastrophie~

  2. Akame ga Kill!

  3. ALDNOAH.ZERO

  4. Ao Haru Ride

  5. Bakumatsu Rock

  6. Barakamon

  7. Bishoujo Senshi Sailor Moon Crystal

  8. DRAMAtical Murder

  9. Fate/kaleid liner Prisma☆Illya 2wei!

  10. Francesca

  11. Free! -Eternal Summer-

  12. Futsuu no Joshikousei ga [Locodol] Yattemita.

  13. Gekkan Shoujo Nozaki-kun

  14. Glasslip

  15. Hanayamata

  16. Himegoto

  17. Jinsei

  18. Kuroshitsuji: Book of Circus

  19. LOVE STAGE!!

  20. Majimoji Rurumo

  21. Minarai Diva

  22. Momo Kyun Sword

  23. Nobunaga Concerto

  24. Persona 4 The Golden ANIMATION

  25. Puri Para

  26. RAIL WARS!

  27. Re:_Hamatora

  28. Rokujouma no Shinryakusha!?

  29. Sabagebu!

  30. Seirei Tsukai no Blade Dance

  31. Sengoku BASARA: Judge End

  32. Shirogane no Ishi: Argevollen

  33. Shounen Hollywood -HOLLY STAGE FOR 49-

  34. Strange+ Season 2 - (Made an alternate version of the first season’s icon)

  35. Sword Art Online II

  36. Tokyo ESP

  37. Tokyo Ghoul

  38. Yama no Susume Second Season

  39. Zankyou no Terror

You can download the pack here: http://bit.ly/1s9gaXq

Alternatively, you can download every icon we’ve made from the beginning; just see the original release post: http://j.mp/1nGRBtM

Enjoy!