Literally translated, Bonenkai means “forget the last year” party, but anyone who has attended one of these end-of-year bashes knows it’s not as simple as that! If you do it right, you’ll walk away with a full stomach and new connections within your company. But if you’re not careful you may wake up the next morning with hangover and a head full of ache and regret!
photos: @ Koyomaru, Hakata-style Izakaya
A company bonenkai usually begins with a greeting by the boss in which he or she thanks staff for their work and speaks positively about the coming year. Then the drinking and eating starts and colleagues pour for each other endlessly. The crowd gets a little rowdy and speeches, karaoke, or skits begin – ranging from embarrassing to very clever. Impersonations of the boss or others usually draw laughs and are fortunately quickly forgotten. Nobody knows why, but more than one guy ends up wearing his necktie around his head.
BONENKAI POWER TIPS
There are great opportunities for nomi-nication – drinking (nomi) and communicating. Problem is, many brilliant ideas are forgotten the next day. So bring lots of name cards.
• Pour for others
If you want to be considered bonenkai jouzu – never let the glasses of the people sitting near you dip to less than 70% full. If you do, you are slow, rude, and a party-pooper.
• Job Security
Often, Japanese bosses proclaim “breko” – the chance for a “break” from office hierarchy, or a license to address your boss honestly and frankly for one night. Don’t fall into the trap! Many a novice has gone too far with their joking and ended up jobless.
• Return home
After the bonekai there’s normally a nijikai and sometimes a sanjikai.
• Save up
Depending on how popular you are, you may be invited to multiple bonenkai – with friends, clubs, PTA and even neighborhood groups. If your company isn’t footing the bill, bonenkai season can be expensive!
• Shop around
On the other hand, restaurants and bars fight fiercely for bonenkai bookings, so shop around a bit to find great deals with all-you-can drink options and more. Popular places get booked early, so don’t delay.
• Genki Drinks
It’s going to be a long night. Hangover probability is high. Consider using protection. Before you drink alcohol, down a bottle of “Ukon Drink”. There are many varieties. Drinking these even after the fact is reported to be of help.
Originally published in Fukuoka Now Magazine (fn180, Dec. 2013)