Drink and Eat! What is a Japanese End of Year Party “Bonen-kai”?




Have you heard of Bonen-kai?

It’s the End of Year party Japanese have in December.


What is Bonen-kai Like?

Bonen-kai is written as 忘年会 and it literally means “forget the year party.”

Japanese companies have Bonen-kai to forget troubles and woes for the past year and hope the bright future and success of oncoming year.

The date depends on companies but it’s usually taken place sometime in December.


At Bonen-kai, people would eat and drink alcohol.

Small companies might just use regular restaurants or Izakaya, while big companies might use hotel or rent a whole restaurant.



They love beer and food!


Source: http://news.utamap.com/



History of Bonen-kai

Although there is no official record, it’s said that people already celebrate Bonen-kai during Muromachi period.


Around 1430, members of Royal families had custom of Toshi-wasure (年忘れ) meaning forget the year, and drunk alcohol and danced.


During Edo period (1603-1863), Bonen-kai was still for certain people. During Meiji period (1868-1912), the number of people who celebrate Bonen-kai increased and it became one of the big events for Japanese.



Features of Bonen-kai

As December approaches, company would ask someone (幹事:kanji) to take care of Bonen-kai. Kanji has to choose the date, time and place to go.

Some companies might go to the same place every year, whereas others might go different place every year.


Some companies might pay the fee but usually employees need to pay their cost. The cost depends on place and what kind of food and drink they would have.

For instance, if you have Bonen-kai at Izakaya, they would have 3,000 yen course for food and drinks. In this case, certain food is provided and drink is all- you-can-drink. They have time limit and it’s usually 2-3 hours.



Facts of Bonen-kai

Most people go Bonen-kai with colleagues or friends.

When they go Bonen-kai with colleagues, they might not be able to relax because they have to talk, listen and entertain their boss and managers.

If they go with friends, it’s more relaxing atmosphere so they can have more fun.

People usually make a reservation because December is busy. Some people even have Bonen-kai in November. It’s not as crowded as December, so it might be a good idea.



What do Foreigners think about Bonen-kai?

Below are some comments from foreigners who participated in Bonen-kai.


Man A
I was surprised Japanese have Bonen-kai a lot! I was invited three times from three groups last year. 


Woman A
We went to Karaoke and it was fun.



Woman B
It’s unique Japanese culture. Very interesting to join.




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