Surviving the Bounenkai Season

Bounenkai(忘年会) season has begun and these drinking parties in Tokyo and across Japan can be exhaustive. That is, if you are not prepared. A Bounenkai, if not familiar, is a year-end party with lots of food and drinks. Work places throw them for their employees to celebrate the past year together and reflect on a job well done. They are also about forgetting the past year and putting it behind them. Don’t worry if you get too drunk as you as 3/4 of the country are out of their minds this time of year. There are even public service announcement cartoons on the JR Lines about getting drunk and stumbling. Only they actually depict falling in front of the trains. So do have a good time and please don’t try that.

But the Bounenkai season does explain why the subways and trains aren’t as fun as usual, as you have to watch your step when commuting or you might slip where you rather not or you might just have to stand next to someone that doesn’t seem like they are fit for human consumption and should have never been allowed into public in the first place. Either way it all fun and this time of year is for celebrating.

If you have the good fortune of celebrating your first Bounenkai, then you should maybe go in with a little knowledge of what to expect. They can be a little confusing for someone not familiar with the tradition.

Helpful tips on how to survive the Bounenkai(s):

  1. This is a time of many parties and most people go to a new Bounenkai every night. So if you have a string of them to attend don’t get super drunk the first night. Save that until the last one as you shouldn’t refuse an invitation even if you have a wicked hang over…
  2. Don’t forget your boss is your boss. Don’t get overly friendly or think he’s your chum after a few drinks.
  3. Make sure your boss is always drinking something and get him as drunk as possible. He’ll thank you.
  4. Make sure you eat everything offered, but don’t go for seconds or eat more than your share.
  5. Relax! Don’t go in the suit. Wear some jeans and take it easy. Be yourself.
  6. Keep your jokes to yourself. Don’t tell any. Let the other guys from the office tell them.
  7. Keep your mouth shut if you have a crush…also keep it shut if someone confides in you. No need to start off the new year with a world of rumors flying around the office.
  8. Wear clean socks! New socks if you got them.
  9. Don’t forget to say everything is delicious. Every time you eat something even if it’s not. The party will be smoother.
  10. Don’t get feely-feely. No one likes to be man-handled, nor do they know how to deal with it. It might be chummy drunk and happy huggy you, but don’t do it in Japan.

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