What is Bounenkai?
Christmas has ended and now Japanese people are getting ready for the end of the year, "Oomisoka (大晦日/ 31 Dec)" and the New Year, "Gantan (元旦)" which are the biggest cerebration of the year in Japan.
But before there is a very important event to begin a new year, which is "Bou nen kai (忘年会)" and everyone is thinking and talking about this.
The literal meaning is "A session to forget the year", means "let´s drink and forget about all bad things happened during the year and start from zero".
In many offices and university clubs are preparing for this big event. You may see this type of posters in the town. Usually people pay fix fee and get some food and unlimited beer and sawaa (サワー/shouchu and soda mixed alcohol drink).
The food is depending on the fee. Company Bounenkai normally ask us to pay at least 3,000 – 4,000 yen and the food is quite nice. Whereas uni one was terrible as far as I remember. We were poor and could paid 2,500 or 3,000 at the most, the food was some greasy cold stuff.
Many may have Bou nen kai every night with different groups, with the people in the same team, friends at work, with the friends from high school, uni or in my case, from the childhood.
I actually never liked the one at uni, as the seniors pushed the juniors to drink. Especially I didn´t like Ikki (一気), which they force you to drink all the drink at once. And I´m not talking about one glass or one shot but 10 glasses of beer for instance.
As I can´t process alcohol, I was lectured how bad manner was not to drink when your senior was "offering" one. I finally managed to convince them that I was allergic to alcohol (which is true) and was most of the time checking out the people who passed out.
As far as I remember in Bou nen kai, you can talk about any problems you had during the year, complaining or something you felt annoying, and this is called Bureikou (無礼講 / informal), but it was always the boss and his men or women.
Anyway, at the end people are so drunk that they don´t even remember what they were going to complain. It works in that sense.
You may be seeing right now in Japan many drunk salary men knocked out and sleeping on the bench of a platform, in the underground or on the street.
They obviously had a good Bounenkai night, so just let him sleep, OK?
I never liked office Bounenkai but always enjoyed the one with my old school friends, because sometimes it´s the only chance to see my friends once a year. And also this is a prologue for the big new year holidays, and to remember how fun the year went with friends.
Yeah, OK, it´s sort of embarrassing that many drunk Japanese completely smashed down in public. But hey, that´s the way Japanese people clean up the year and start a new year fresh. Not bad, I think.
More about New Year preparation