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The Videoke Culture

Videoke is everywhere. Love it or hate it, you can’t ignore it.

Videoke, the “video” equivalent of its predecessor “Karaoke”, is a cultural phenomenon. And like many imported cultural phenomenon’s experienced in the West: Pokémon, “Help Kitty” Dolls, Sushi and Sushi Bars, transistor radios, “Anime” and “manga” comics, we can thank, or blame, the Japanese for these additions to our culture.

It’s really not their fault. Thank Commodore Perry for “opening the door” to western technology: gunpowder and firearms, Global Imperialism, “top hats”, tuxedos, tight shoes and, eventually the Atomic Bomb to a feudalistic, self absorbed, highly organized, intelligent, disciplined , and controlled culture.  Now, it’s payback time.

“Karaoke” originated in Japan in the early 1970s. “Karaoke” in is a combination of two Japanese words: “kara,” meaning “empty,” and “oke,” meaning “orchestra”. This “empty orchestra” soon evolved to “videoke” as a “video orchestra”, adding annoying film clips and animations in the background that serves to distract the audience from the song, or the singer.

The automotive and electronics industry has long been dominated by Toyotas and Toshibas, and some people see such “Asian” imports as being a sinister and threatening cultural trend. The Japanese seem to agree.  Japanese sociologists say the “yen”  for things Japanese reveals a change from “materialistic” to an ”information- focused” culture. As if we learn anything from an inebriated patron singing off-key in a bar.

Stereos and automobiles were once the symbol of modern Japanese technology and culture, but now its animation, fashion and cosmetics. Japan already exerts a powerful cultural influence in Taiwan and China, and the popularity of Asian/Japanese culture is becoming more accepted in the West. And In terms of popular culture at least, Asia, and especially Japan may become the cultural icons and leaders in the West in 20 years’ time; if they’re not already there.