During my trip to South Korea I discovered the fabulous “noraebang“, which are private karaoke rooms you rent out by the hour. There are typically about 10-20 rooms in a noraebang, generally found in the basement of a Korean restaurant. You can rent a small room for four people up to a large room for a crowd. There are Korean videos that play in the background of the screen that have nothing to do with the song playing. There are usually bad disco lights and tambourines.
It sounds really cheesy, and it is, but it is also a helluva lotta fun. Annoyingly, karaoke is so popular in Portland that often you will wait several hours on a Friday night for just one of your songs to be played, if you’re lucky to get even one song played. The noraebang avoids that entirely since you can play whatever songs you want, whenever you want. No bribing KJ’s (Karaoke DJ’s) and no waiting 3+ hours for your song to get played only to sing wasted since you just spent 3+ hours drinking in a bar.
I was sure there were private karaoke rooms in Portland but was having a really difficult time finding them. In fact, it took me about two years to track them down. But I never lost faith, for I knew somewhere in the basement of a Korean restaurant I would find a noraebang. Since this is such an asian culture thing, I figured none of the white people I know would be much help (and they weren’t). I talked to many KJ’s (karaoke DJ’s) who had never heard of Portland having these rooms. But alas, with a tip from my friend in Japan (this is your shout-out JOE!), I found a noraebang… in the basement of a Korean restaurant!
Family Karaoke Studio is located on the Beaverton-Hillsdale Hwy, near Uwajimaya, in this Korean strip mall. Most of the signs on the businesses are not in English, so it can be hard to spot. Everything there seemed very much like I remember from my South Korea trip. With the one exception being it’s about 6x as much as it was in Korea to rent the room, but then everything here is about 6x as much as it was in Korea. Splitting the room between ten people worked out pretty reasonably and we had ourselves one heck of a run in there. Also, there are no booze allowed unless you sneak them in, which I will not admit to or endorse, but will say it’s easy to do.
There was Barry Manilow, Snoop, Paul Simon, CCR, Eminem, Blondie – we really ran the gammut. Ours sides were all hurting my the end from laughing so hard and a few us had pretty weak voices from so much singing. We only stayed a couple hours, but the noraebang stays open until 4am. It was a really fun way to have a mini-party with some friends and, perhaps sadly, I expect to become a regular.