The origins of karaoke go back to 1972 with the recording of orchestral accompaniment for professional singers. The first commercial karaoke equipment was developed and named "karaoke" by the Clarion Company in 1976. The term "karaoke" was coined from kara, meaning empty, and oke, for orchestra--"empty orchestra"--or orchestral accompaniment without the singing.
In the mid-1980s, large metal containers used for shipping goods were remodeled as rooms for singing karaoke. Later these "karaoke boxes" were replaced by small "karaoke rooms" equipped with couches and karaoke equipment The phenomenon became increasingly popular, reaching a peak in 1996 with 14,000 karaoke facilities enjoyed by around 57 million people. Today, karaoke rooms are often frequented by families, groups of friends, and business associates, who can order small snacks or beverages to enjoy while singing.
The All-Japan Karaoke Industrial Association reports that in the year 2000, there were 12,000 operations with karaoke facilities and a total of 141,000 karaoke rooms. The number of Japanese karaoke adherents in the year 2000 is estimated at around 490 million. Karaoke shops targeting young people abound near train stations and popular shopping and entertainment areas. Prices vary from place to place and according to the time. Uta Hiroba, one particularly successful karaoke chain, charges a daytime rate of 180 yen per person per hour. It also offers a 980 yen late-night rate (from midnight to 5 am), excluding weekends, for unlimited singing and soft drinks.
Karaoke tunes have also recently become available on the Internet and can be downloaded by special telecommunications equipment to be enjoyed in the home.
*All-Japan Karaoke Industrial Association, "Karaoke White Paper, 2001"