A year to forget

18 12 2007

All photos from Flickr

There were definitely things I don’t remember about my 21st birthday party the other week. Mostly I don’t remember anything that happened after 11:30. In Japan, there are parties where everyone is suppose to forget. They are called “Bonenkai” or “forget-the-year parties.” These office parties, which start around December 10th and normally last until the end of the month, are held to help people forget the unpleasantries of the last year and to start fresh with the new year. The Japanese workplace is normally pretty stiff and strict, however, at these parties the bosses and the rest of the employees usually get ridiculously drunk, and all decorum gets thrown out the window or the cubicle or whatever.

Bosses especially try to break loose at these events and be “breiko” or forgetful of their high position. Now you don’t just get drunk with your coworkers; you also get invited to other office parties. Drunk salesmen drink with drunk accountants, and drunk bank clerks drink with drunk bus drivers. Then these drunk salarymen take to the streets. Surveys found that office workers go to parties more than students during the holidays and that both men and women go to parties. Most people go to “izakaya” for Bonenkai celebrations. Izakaya are Japanese pubs that have drinks and a myriad of small to middle-sized dishes. They also sometimes have karaoke.

Even though Bonenkai are suppose to be times of forgetfulness, people must be careful not to forget their manners. You must never pour your own drink first and instead you must offer to pour either your host or a guest’s drink. There is even a correct way to pour the drink itself! You must raise your drink out of respect when you receive it. If you are the host then you must make sure that your guests’ cups are never empty.

New Year’s is the largest celebration in Japan. They really make a big deal out of it. “Omisoka” is New Year’s Eve, and “Shogatsu” is New Year’s Day.

I guess one of the next posts will be about Shinnenkai celebrations in January. The Japanese sure know how to party.

Read what some Bonenkai revelers have to say about the holiday parties.

Here’s a guide to surviving Bonenkai festivities.

A drunk guy passed out on the street is normal in Tokyo (you see how everyone is just walking by)

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