Odds are at some point you’ve been part of an after-school study group with your classmates, either to help each other power through a difficult course or cram for an important exam. Maybe you got together at a friend’s place or took over a corner of your local coffee house, but in Japan, neither of those of those is really a viable choice of location.

Japanese homes are generally too small to host a large group of visitors. Meanwhile, the coffee break-loving country’s cafes tend to be packed when schools let out in the afternoon, so it’s often a serious challenge to find even a single empty seat in a Tokyo Starbucks, let alone adjacent ones for all your study buddies. So in response, clever Japanese students thought outside the box and discovered a trendy new venue for group study sessions: karaoke boxes.

If your only image of karaoke is the sort of noisy bar with an all-eyes-on-me stage that’s associated with the musical hobby in the west, this might seem like a terrible idea. Japanese karaoke emporiums, though, are made up of private rooms that groups of friends use by themselves. Just like with the inventive individuals who’re turning love hotel rooms into themed cosplay photo studios, no one says you have to use a karaoke box for its originally intended purpose of singing along to backing music. And since karaoke boxes charge by the hour, not by the song, it’s not like the management cares one way or another whether you sing or simply use the room as a private lounge for you and your friends.

Fans of studying in karaoke boxes, called “kara-ben” (from karaoke and benkyo, the Japanese word for “study”) cite a number of unique advantages the unusual location has.

1. Privacy and freedom


For starters, unlike a cafe or library, there’s no need to worry about keeping your voice down, so you and your classmates can discuss the subject matter you’re grappling with in as animated and energetic a style as you want. This also makes kara-ben a great option for students who want to practice their English or other foreign language pronunciation, especially since they don’t have to feel self-conscious about strangers or schoolmates they’re not particularly close to overhearing them stumble over unfamiliar words.

2. It’s easy to find space for your group

As mentioned above, the mid to late afternoon, when most students want to get their group study sessions started, is the peak time for people of all walks of life to head to a cafe for some post-lunch or pre-dinner refreshments. Karaoke boxes, on the other hand, get most of their customers at night. As such, it’s relatively easy to roll up to a karaoke place on a weekday afternoon and get a room that will accommodate a half-dozen or more classmates.

3. Amenities


Karaoke boxes are furnished with long sofas and tables, allowing you to stretch out and spread out your texts, notebooks, and other study materials. They all serve drinks, and many have food as well, so should you get hungry or thirsty, you can order something off the menu and get right back to studying.

4. It’s surprisingly affordable


On the one hand, karaoke boxes do charge by the person, as opposed to a set amount for the room. Even still, an afternoon of kara-ben can still work out to be less expensive than the same amount of time spent sipping gourmet coffee-based drinks in Starbucks.

Because karaoke places don’t get much business during weekday afternoons, many offer special multi-hour deals at extremely low prices, sometimes allowing you to stay until the evening for as little as 600 yen (US$5) a person. It’s also possible to find coupons for further discounts during off-hours .

Some generous establishments offer unlimited refills on soft drinks, so taking into consideration how much a Coke or juice would cost in a cafe, after two or three glasses the room is essentially free. Smaller operations without a kitchen may even allow you to bring in outside food.

5. Need a break? Pick up a mike

▼ “Couldn’t loiter in Starbucks anymore, so I’m studying in a karaoke box. I’ll probably only sing one song.”


Of course, even if your main purpose in parking yourself in the karaoke box isn’t to sing, that’s always an option. If you feel like your brain is bumping up against its capacity for trigonometry theorems or classical philosophical movements, you can treat yourself to a quick break by actually doing a little karaoke.

You’ll of course want to avoid energy-sapping ballads, and probably the time-consuming progressive rock genre in general. But choose an up-tempo tune you can all sing together, or maybe the alma mater of the college you’re aiming for, and you’ve got yourself a quick pick-me-up before you get back to studying in your oddly effective educational environment.

Source: Naver Matome