By Dr. Randall Pennington
For those lucky few who don’t know the meaning of bonenkai, it means “forget the last year party”. But let me tell you what it really means!
If you’ve had a horrendous year, this year-end, amnesia-inducing hop-fest is just the ticket to wipe out those memories of “teaching” English to one-year-olds at the brightly pink colored kindergarten. Since the majority of foreigners end up in some sort of teaching job in Japan, you should know the month of December is called shiwasu in Japanese, or “running teachers month”. As most teachers here can attest, it is indeed the busiest month. This just so happens to concur with bonenkai season.
So just how popular are you? If you are popular and the entertaining omoshiroi gaijin type, plan on attending and shelling out for many more drinkathons. Except that you have to pay for something that you usually get paid for (i.e. teach and entertain). If you line up enough bonenkai through December you may actually achieve the goal of forgetting the previous year by killing millions of brain cells nightly. By New Years you might actually be brain dead enough to endure shogatsu Japanese TV programming!
Alas, bonenkai is not the end of it all. Prepare for the nijikai or “party-after-the-party-to-forget-the-last-year”. This could be thought of as a way to really go retroactive and make up for the last two or three years of dissatisfaction. Nevertheless, the nijikai will come up to smack you in the forehead (and wallet) just as surely as the porcelain shrine will, should you lose your balance while doing your obligatory post-bonenkai prostrations. A favorite spot for nijikai is the karaoke box. The idea is to drink more alcohol while being serenaded by dancing, tone deaf, drunk, chain-smoking exhibitionists who insist on turning up the volume on the mics until your ears bleed. So how can you avoid poverty, hangovers, hearing loss, dying from second-hand smoke and giving free eikaiwa lessons?
Haki-Bar: Last stop on your bar-hopping tour
The first step to being accepted by your Japanese friends and colleagues is to get properly smashed with them. But if you throw up all over their pants, all that hard-earned goodwill can be lost forever! Where to turn? There’s only one place to let it all out, as every Japan-savvy gaijin knows: the Haki-Bar! The facilities consist of a classy stainless-steel sink. Note: “haki” means “throw up”.
Near the entrance to Oyafuko-dori
Time: Whenever you’re drinking (last order 04:00)