十八番, which reads either “おはこ (ohako)” or “じゅうはちばん (jūhachiban)”, is a standard Japanese word that means “one’s adept skills”. Although it is used to describe any type of skill, it is particularly used to describe “your song” that you can sing well at karaoke. For instance, you may ask your Japanese friends at karaoke, “What is your 十八番 (the songs you can sing very well)?”.
Readings of 十八番
十八番 has two different readings and both are considered to be correct. One is a literal reading “じゅうはちばん (jyūhachi ban)”, and the other is an unusual one “おはこ (ohako)”. There are several hypotheses for the origin of the unusual reading, one of which attributes it to the fact that 歌舞伎十八番 (kabuki plays which this word originates from) was usually kept in 箱 (hako, “box”). Here, “お” is a prefix that adds politeness to the word.
The literal meaning of 十八番 is “number 18”. Its non-literal meaning is rooted in “歌舞伎十八番“, a collection of kabuki plays published in 1832 which listed 18 representative kabuki plays of the actors of the Ichikawa family (i.e. the plays that they were adept at playing).
I was a little annoyed because he/she sang my 十八番 (favourite song that I can sing well) before me at karaoke.
Impersonation is his 十八番 (adept skill; he is very good at impersonation)
Synonyms: お家芸 (see below), 強み (strength)
Synonyms in English: adept skill, forte
Related words and phrases: None