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Around the World in 80 Days

Day 52: 15 November

Michael Palin - Around the World in 80 DaysWaiting at a public phone box to contact Mr Nakajima again I'm caught unawares by the Japanese use of the sharply exhaled exclamation Hai in everyday conversation. It whistles out so emphatically that it sounds like someone's just thrown a knife at you, and you duck sharply only to see it's someone talking on the phone behind.

Mr Nakajima is in his office and I have had a great stroke of luck . . . Hai! . . . a container ship of Neptune Orient Lines is scheduled to leave Tokyo tomorrow evening for a ten-day journey to Long Beach, California.

This is good news indeed and demands a celebration. Clem is set on trying a Karaoke bar. Karaoke (which means 'empty orchestra') began twenty years ago as a way of allying Japanese technology to the Japanese urge to sing in public. It's refined a little since then but basically consists of a small bar at one end of which is a performing area. The one I visit with David Powers has on laser disc the backing track to 2000 popular songs. For the negligible sum of 100 yen a tune can be played through the club's PA system whilst the punter stands on stage with mike in hand, words relayed on a screen in front of him, singing along as best he can. But this is not all, for on two screens behind, a video adds the final touch. Respectably dressed middle-aged men, and women, can croon mournful ballads whilst young lovers on video career through corn fields in soft focus and 4-wheel drive Subarus.
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  • Series: Around the World in 80 Days
  • Day: 52
  • Date: 15 November
  • Country/sea: Japan
  • Place: Tokyo
  • Book page no: 180

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