Tokyo: 10 Things to Do

9. Karaoke

Karaoke Imagestate Media Partners Limited / Impact Photos / Alamy
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In Japan, karaoke usually happens in a private room with your friends or colleagues, with a waiter delivering drinks. But at Smash Hits, located at the west end of the Hiroo shotengai (neighborhood shopping street), you perform on stage before a random, rowdy audience. There's a thick catalog of English songs to choose from, and emcee Saito-san is known to shuffle the order in favor of newcomers, so you won't have to wait long to make your evening debut. Cheer the salarymen taking turns at the mic — many are practiced regulars who favor Billy Joel, Guns 'N Roses and Queen — and they'll show you love in return. Inside these cozy basement quarters is stadium-style seating and endearingly grubby décor. The walls are papered with album covers (remember LPs?) and Polaroid snapshots of patrons from years gone by. Smash Hits is open Tuesday through Saturday nights, from 7 p.m. to 3 a.m.; the $40 cover charge includes two drinks. It's a 5-minute walk from the Hiroo stop on the Hibiya line; take Exit 2, turn right, then round the corner at the wine shop and walk to the end of the block.

If you'd rather not run into other foreigners — the risk of going to Smash Hits is that it is occasionally overrun with expats (who tend to arrive in a drunken horde after midnight) — try the red-velvet swathed Jan Ken Pon, the Japanese name for Rock, Paper, Scissors (it's actually what you chant while pumping your fist, right before the throw). Most nights a live cover band performs (usually disco, soul, rock or pop hits from the '50s, '60s, '70s or '80s) and customers can sign up to sing in between sets. Note: during early evening hours, house lights are up and music volume is down, while elegantly dressed hostesses work the room (there's a charge for table conversation). The club's atmosphere is vastly improved after 11pm, as more patrons hit the dance floor. Jan Ken Pon is open from 7 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. Monday through Saturday (until 3 a.m. on Friday), and from 6 p.m. to 1 a.m. on Sunday and holidays. Cover charge is about $25 for men, $20 for women. Take the Hibiya Metro line or JR Yamanote line to Ebisu.

Harboring a rock 'n roll fantasy? At Gigabar, located in Minami-Aoyama (next door to Roppongi, the epicenter of this city's nightlife) you can sing — or play guitar, bass or drums — with a live band. The musical "menu" lists some 200 songs, including six by Deep Purple (did those guys really have that many hits?) as well as tracks by the likes of Led Zeppelin, Eric Clapton and the Rolling Stones. You pay $10 per performance, plus a $12 per person table charge. It's a restaurant and full service bar too. Gigabar is open 7 p.m. to 3 a.m. Monday to Saturday. Live sets end at 1 a.m. (2 a.m. Saturday).

For a variation on the standard karaoke "box" experience, Lovenet in Roppongi offers a variety of "suites" — private lounges with various themes such as Candy, Sakura, Sunshine, Heaven and Vodka. In the Aqua Suite, you can croon while soaking in a jacuzzi. Lovenet is open from 6 p.m. to 5 a.m. daily (until 7 a.m. Friday and 11 p.m. on Sunday). To find more late-night entertainment, check listings in Time Out Tokyo or Metropolis magazine.

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