Can you even say you’ve been to Japan if you never got drunk at a karaoke bar? I don’t think so, and so on the eve of our last night in Beppu we set out to get wasted and sing crappy pop songs.
Ever the innovative nation, the izakayas and karaoke bars of Japan have this wonderful option to pay a flat rate for as many drinks as you can down in an hour. So for about ten dollars each, we were all able to get as many drinks as was necessary to loosen up and begin singing without reservation.
I should mention that karaoke bars are not bars in the western understanding of the concept. After paying, your group is lead to a private room with decent enough sound proofing. There’s a TV, an iPad type device on which to choose songs, and two microphones. In the foyer of this particular karaoke bar there was also a rack of free tambourines and maracas to borrow for the hour, which was a blessing, for not only are tambourines loud enough to cover up drunken screeching, they also provide proof that wasted people indeed have no rhythm.
Packed into our private room, we scrolled through the song selection while patiently awaiting our drinks. The theme of our travels is thrifty-ness, so Billy and I pre-gamed the karaoke, but we didn’t pre-game enough, as I was suddenly handed a microphone as John Denver’s “Country Roads” kicked on.
I realized two important things in that moment:
1. I only know the chorus to “Country Roads.”
2. I am not nearly drunk enough to blunder my way through the verses that I do not and perhaps will never know.
The drinks arrived during “Country Roads,” so I spent one of those unknown verses furiously chugging beer in an effort to get drunk by the end of the song.
I can’t say when I officially became drunk, perhaps after the third drink, or maybe it was when Billy and I gave a stirring duet of “Lola” by The Kinks. We all got there eventually though, and all realized it too when we joyfully screamed our way through “Hey Jude.”
There was a lot of love in that room when the final outro played on—a lot of beer too, or Moscow mules in Billy’s case. Somehow this was the right way for us to say goodbye, blatantly singing out of key and swaying altogether on and off the beat. It was a moment that would exist only in memory, and would become sweeter with each re-visit.
Unfortunately Billy filmed the whole thing, so what would have been a memory that aged like fine wine is now something tangible, and will no doubt make its way to Facebook and dinner parties in the future.
I’m not complaining. It’s a hilarious video. There will be plenty of memories made that only I will be able to visit. The “Hey Jude” drunk karaoke memory, however, is too good not to share.