忘年会 Bonenkai


皆で一緒に話したり飲んだりしながら今年のことを忘れましょう!Let’s forget about this year while we’re talking and drinking together!

This picture doesn’t accurately represent bounenkai (忘年会). To many of us Americans, the later part of December means Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. However, to many of us Americans living here in Japan, the later part of December means bounenkai!

Basically, bounenkai is a dinner party you have with your co-workers/colleagues. It is held at the end of the year just before winter break. The first character 忘 is the same character used for the verb: forget – 忘れる. The second character stands for year – 年 . The last character stands for: a meeting; a gathering; a party – 会 . Thus, bounenkai – 忘年会 is often translated as something like “End of the Year Party,” “Forget the Year Gathering,” and my favorite, “Let’s get drunk together.”

Our Board of Education bounenkai was held on the evening of December 24th. This was also the evening of the first big snow of the winter.

Any English teacher here will tell you the average cost of an Enkai (dinner party) is around Y5000 – about $50.00. This includes a bunch of delicious Japanese dishes and pretty much all you can drink beer, sake, and nihonshu. I usually finish my food early on because the serving sizes are so small I eat up everything right away. I savor what taste I can in the two bites it takes to finish a plate. After that, it’s drinking time!

In my Enkai experience thus far, I’ve learned that the custom here in Kansai is to offer your empty sake cup to someone and have them hold it while you pour. After the recipient finishes the offer, s/he is expected to then hand the sake cup back to it’s owner, at which time the owner holds the cup while it’s filled by the person who just drank from it. Same sake cup, two buddies, lots of sake shots back and forth… teamwork baby, teamwork.

Enkai Formation

This pic was taken in October at an Enkai after a Sports Festival

welcome enkaiwelcome enkai

These were taken at my Welcome Enkai in August

About 5 minutes after the official start of the Enkai, I’ve noticed that people usually get up and move to someone else’s table, sit down in front of them and start to pour their drink of choice. This goes on till the Enkai finishes. So at this bounenkai I followed suit. I got up and went to the tables of people I knew and poured them drinks, drank drinks they poured me, poured the neighboring people drinks, drank the drinks the neighboring people poured me and so on and so on. Every now and then I would return to my seat to see what new dish had arrived.

部長さん (Butyou = Mr. Department Manager?) and 課長さん (Kacho = Mr. Section Chief) both came to my table. They kept pouring me mad* amounts of sake. In fact, I remember this one time our sake cups had gotten mixed up so 部長さん just grabbed my empty water glass and filled that up with sake! For those of you who have yet to experience the good times of Enkai, let me break it down** for you jus a lil bit. The sake cups are smaller than the average 1 ounce shot glass and they are always accompanied by a papa jug of sake. The water glasses are about 1 and 1/2 cups. And 部長さん filled mine up to the brim! Seriously, I laughed out loud when he emptied the papa sake bottle into my cup. I said thanks and could hardly stop laughing when I picked it up and sake was overflowing over the rim…

papa sake with two baby sake cups


No mom, I didn’t drink that much sake… I did put a significant dent in it though.

Anyhow, our bounenkai was awesome. I can’t think of any better way of spending Christmas Eve in Japan 🙂

*mad = [in this situation means] huge; excessive; or a lot

**break it down= explain

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