• Wed. Jul 17th, 2024

Japan Subculture Research Center

A guide to the Japanese underworld, Japanese pop-culture, yakuza and everything dark under the sun.

Inspired by the ennui of the expat who’s spent too many years in Japan and the Billy Joel classic “Piano Man” + a lot of insomnia.  If you can appreciate this, you’ve probably been in Japan way too long.

“Karaoke Man”

The expat blues can only be exorcised by singing this modified version of "Piano Man"
The expat blues can only be exorcised by singing this modified version of “Piano Man”

It’s nine o’clock on a Thursday
The regular crowd is all here
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Making love to his Asahi Super Dry Beer

He says, “Son can you sing me a memory
I’m not really sure it’s popular at bars
But it’s sad and it’s sweet
And I knew it complete
And I think it’s by the Southern All Stars”

Sing us a song you’re the Karaoke man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feeling alright

Now Taro at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my mizuwari for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be

He says, “Akira, I believe this is killing me”
As a smile ran away from his face
“Well, I’m sure that I could be an AV star
If I could get out of this place”

Now Hiro is a real estate mangaka
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talking with Moroni who’s still at Sony
And probably will be for life

And the hostess is practicing pouring green tea
As the businessmen get drunk real slow
Yes they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinking Jinro

Sing us a song you’re the Karaoke man
Sing us a song that’s manic
Well we’re all in the mood for any thing
And at least this isn’t Gas Panic

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Thursday
And the manager gives me a nudge
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been coming to see
To forget about the boss they begrudge

And the Laser disc player sounds like a matsuri 
And the microphone smells like red wine
As they sip their beer and yell in my ear—
“Can you sing YOU ARE MY SUNSHINE?”

Sing us a song you’re the Karaoke man
Sing us a song you old dude 
Well we’re all in the mood for MY WAY
And you’ve got us feeling so goood

2 thoughts on ““Karaoke Man”: An Ode For the Expat In Japan Reeling From Ennui”
  1. Sounds like a personal issue, Jake. A sabbatical for you, maybe? Has an American spent more energy embracing Japanese culture, and in ‘fitting in,’ than you? You are certainly the first and only American ever to become a reporter for a iconic Japanese daily. And now you’re fatigued? So it must really be fatiguing. I was in Seoul last month and thought about a quick trip to Japan. Maybe, next time. I have Korean Air miles, so when I do, I’ll fly to Seoul, then take the ferry to Japan. The one that carried all those Korean-Japanese who were convinced to return to NK where they would enjoy special status and comfortable digs by the psychotic Kim family. Have any human beings anywhere else in the galaxy ever made a worse decision? But I digress.

    1. Hah! I’m sorry it gave that impression. This was actually kind of commentary on an ex-pat blues pieces in the Japan Times. I’m pretty happy with life in Japan although it does get a little sad to see so many people leave while I stay. Yes, the repatriation to North Korea was a colossal mistake—and some of the Japanese media spurred the movement by crappy reporting.

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