Japan doesn’t celebrate Christmas (really), so companies don’t have Christmas parties. However, New Years is very important in Japanese culture and, as such, they have New Years’ parties, appropriately called 忘年会 (bounenkai) – literally, “forget the year gathering.” My school had their bounenkai last Friday, December 20th, and I was invited, as were all of the other teachers.
My bounenkai was a little on the expensive side – I had to pay 6000 yen (~$60) in order to attend mine. However, I was told that there would be games and such at the bounenkai, as well as food and alcohol, and I was looking forward to spending time with the teachers, so I willingly paid the cash. And, man, what a party it was!
Ours was held at a local hotel. We went into the banquet room where we sat at a table with our Teacher’s Room desk group mates (all of the 1nensei teachers sat together, all of the 2nensei teachers sat together, the 3nensei teachers sat together… etc.). Usually, the new teachers have to prepare an “opening” of some sort, so we watched as they put on a hilarious skit of a popular Japanese comedian’s song and dance, listened to a few words from our school’s principal, then we kanpai‘d and the bounenkai began!
We were served several plates of food, ranging from sushi (delicious), to a salad that had some kind of squid/octopus type thing in it (also delicious!), to what I think was (a very tender) pork, to soup, to fried noodles and vegetables, and finishing with two desserts! The entire time we ate, we were offered unlimited alcohol – beer, wine, Japanese sake…
After we finished eating, the new teachers had organized some games for us to play. One of the games was Bingo, which was super fun and a good way to test my Japanese numerical skills after I had had a few drinks. I was one of the early winners, but we played until everyone won. It was so much fun!
Two and a half hours after the kanpai, the bounenkai ended. I was sad for it to end – I was having a lot of fun with the teachers as we all relaxed and “forgot the year.” So, when I was invited to the 二次会 (nijikai), or after party, I only hesitated a moment before accepting! The nijikai was held at a local bar and cost me another 2000yen (~$20), but it was worth it. I talked to teachers whom I had never talked to before, ate and drank some more, and overall had a great time! The nijikai ended after two hours, and after having one too many drinks, I made it home safe and sound by 11pm.
Although it was an expensive night, it was totally worth it and I’m so glad I went! If you ever get the chance to go to a bounenkai – GO! :)