TOMA’s History

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When I told one of my employees in his twenties that karaoke used to be a  ” hachitora (8 track tape),” he did not know what it is. Recently, there are live concert videos or music videos from an artist as a background. Likewise, karaoke is evolving every day and I would like to introduce some karaoke history as well as the beginning of TOMA.

The first karaoke brought to Hawaii 40 years ago was this hachitora. Us, Tome Enterprise ordered this and brought it to a Japanese bar. Yes, Toma was the first company to bring karaoke to the United States!! Back then, singing at the bar was rare and so was karaoke. However, as some Japanese and Okinawans started to sing, others started to get into it as well. A popular song at a time that I remember is “Kokoni sachi ari” by Yoshiko Otsu. At first, I thought this was a song from Hawaii but it was a Japanese song. I believe the lyrics matched the feelings of people in Hawaii at the time; it was often sung enthusiastically at a bar. Hachitora was at a bar for about 6 years.

Each cassette includes 4 songs with no video. Since there is no video, there are no lyrics either. You had to prepare lyrics for the next song before playing it with a resume button. It is such an analog system that cannot be imagined from today’s technology, but it was understood in Hawaii.

“The 8-track tape (formally Stereo 8; commonly called eight-track cartridgeeight-track tape, and eight-track) is a magnetic tape sound recording technology that was popular from the mid-1960s to the early 1980s, when the Compact Cassette tape, which predated 8-track, surpassed it in popularity for pre-recorded music. There are 4 stereo channels each with 2 tracks. Thus, it recorded a total of 8 track signals, from which it got its name from.” (from Wikipedia)

It was probably a dollar per song. Toma was across from Yanagi Sushi, with karaoke exhibition and stock. I remember going there secretly during midnight to sing. At the time, there was on board hachitora too.

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As a student, I presented about this karaoke in a speech class at the university. After the presentation, I sang “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel with the portable karaoke. Maybe I contributed a little to the sales at Toma… The effort of Ken and Nori who sold them at the time built the beginning of the history of karaoke in Hawaii.