Karaoke: Ka (か) – Karaoke (カラオケ)

Karaoke Japanese Vocabulary – AIUEO Blog!

Hello to our lovely readers!  These days we can finally sense spring making an entrance amongst the winter cold.  Here on the (self-proclaimed) hugely popular A-I-U-E-O Blog, we will now be starting with the “ka” row!


A Popular Leisure Activity
List of Karaoke-related Terms
Quiz on the Origins of Karaoke

Japanese Karaoke: A Popular Leisurely Activity

When you think of a word that starts with “ka”, the first word that pops into your head is yes, that’s right, “karaoke”! It is a famous Japanese word that is well known all over the world.
It has completely become a part of everyday life in Japan, so you will more than likely have a chance to go to Karaoke in Japan one day. Today, I have compiled some expressions that might be useful for you when the time comes!

List of Karaoke-related Terms

1. ハモる  Hamoru

An abbreviation of the words “harmony” + “suru” (meaning to do in Japanese). As with the meaning of harmonizing, it means to simultaneously sing in a different complementary musical scale. For two people who always harmonize together, they’ll define their roles for harmonizing by saying something like, “I’ll sing the higher part and you sing the lower part!”.
You can use the word hamoru by saying “Hamorou!” (ハモろう!- let’s harmonize) or “Hamotte!” (ハモって!- harmonize!).

2. 十八番    (おはこ) Ohako

A song that someone is good at and always sings. Or basically, someone’s go-to song at a Karaoke Bar.
The following is an example of a conversation regarding ohako:
A: 田中さんの十八番は何ですか Tanaka-san no ohako wa nandesuka?
Tanaka-san, what is your go-to karaoke song?
B:ビートルズのイエスタデイです Biitoruzu no iesutadei desu.
It’s Yesterday by the Beatles.

3. 懐メロ   (なつメロ) Natsumero

A word typically used to describe a nostalgic song. Natsu mero is a combination of two words.  The “natsu” portion comes from the Japanense word, natsukashii (懐かしい、なつかしい), which means nostalgic.  The “mero” portion comes from the English word melody.


If you go to karaoke and most of the songs are from the 80s,
you can say,  「今日は懐メロ大会ですね〜」(きょうはなつメロたいかいですね〜) “Kyou wa natsumero taikai desu ne~” meaning, “Today’s songs are all nostalgic songs.”

Quiz on the Origins of Karaoke

And lastly, as is the custom (although it’s only the second time), we have a quiz!
“Karaoke” was originally formed by joining two words together. What are those two words?
…Time’s up~~!
The answer is, “kara” (meaning empty in Japanese) + “okesutora” (orchestra).  As is common practice for many Japanese words, it was formed by taking part of a word and joining it with another part of a different word to form a shorter word.
It is thought that with the word karaoke, Japanese bandmen in the 1970s started using it to mean “an empty performance without the melody being sung”.
Well then, everyone, please try using these words during your next karaoke session!

More about the author:

This blog was written by Ayana Nezu – Nezu-san works at our Azabu Japanese Club location with more than 10 years of experience in the education, training, and human resources industries – she brings a wealth of experience to Coto – as well as a bright smile and a love for Sake tasting workshops in her free time.

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