Karaoke takes the stage at Lake of the Pines’ marina | TheUnion.com

Karaoke takes the stage at Lake of the Pines’ marina

Laura Lavelle
Lake of the Pines

The Union photo/John Hart

Few Saturday night rock stars reflect on the term "karaoke" before stepping out in front of a crowd to sing "Sweet Caroline," but did you know the word is a Japanese term that means "empty orchestra?" This form of entertainment is believed to have started 20 years ago, in Kobe, Japan, where it grew to become popular among Japanese businessmen.

"Hanamizuki" by Yo Hitoto is a Japanese karaoke favorite, but here, popular tunes include Journey's "Don't Stop Believing," Michael Jackson's "Billie Jean" and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody." Country songs are popular, too, like "My Wish" by Rascal Flatts or Johnny Cash's "Folsom Prison Blues."

Karaoke is widespread and has been included in Lake of the Pines' activity scheduling for years. It remains popular among LOP residents, and monthly karaoke events at the Marina Lounge are well attended.

The next one will take place Tuesday, April 8, 6-9 p.m., and is a great way to showcase your singing talent with friends and neighbors.

Karaoke is just one bit of culture that the Japanese have shared with the United States. Anime is another and is popular with adolescents. As middle-school teachers will tell you, this bright and stylized art form graces the front of many students' binders and note page borders.

The exchange of culture is not a one-way street. American culture has reached Japan's shores, as well. Jeans and Johnny Depp are still popular in Japan, although some say America's influence is on the decline. Regardless, any exchange of positive ideas is a great way to advance culture and encourage good will among nations.

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An opportunity for residents to encourage good will with our Japanese neighbors is happening this week. South county families will be saying "kinnichiwa" (hello) to 24 exchange students on Wednesday. The group is with Cultural Homestay America, a nonprofit educational exchange program whose goal is to promote "understanding and good will through people-to-people exchanges." They have been operating this program since 1980.

Most students are in their early teens, but a few are high-school age. Their adventure begins when they fly into San Francisco airport and then travel north through the Central Valley to the Sierra Foothills.

The students have a busy itinerary, which includes attending classes at area schools. They will also tour historic Grass Valley, where they will learn about the history of the California Gold Rush.

Michele Harter, a coordinator for the exchange, said the students are educated in English but most are not fluent. They will be paired with students who will be their guides throughout the program.

The Japanese students will be in the area for several days, so they may be seen at the lake, bocce ball courts or in local restaurants. One way to make them feel welcome is to say "irasshaimase" (welcome) or "ohayo-gozaimasu" (good morning.)

If you are interested in becoming a host, back-up host, or in just offering some American hospitality or entertainment, please contact the local coordinator, Michele, at 268-9125.

Laura Lavelle's column is for southern Nevada County residents to share thoughts and information. Contact her at lavelle@cebridge.net.

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