Some do’s and don’ts for drinking at 'bonenkai'


’Tis the season. Bonenkai, the traditional mode of celebrating it, means literally “forget-the-year party.” There’s been a lot to forget this year – natural disasters, heat waves, government scandals, corporate scandals. It’s almost over. We can celebrate its end, if not its content.

This calls for a drink. One drink calls for another, and another, and so on. Before you know it you’ve forgotten the year, forgotten your name – in a word, you feel great. That’s what bonenkai is all about.

The fly in the ointment – there always is one – is that feeling great isn’t always good for you. It can do pretty serious damage, warns Shukan Post (Dec 7). It needn’t, however, if you drink sensibly. If that meant merely drinking in moderation, there would be nothing more to say. But it’s not that simple.

In fact, it’s a minefield. Take beer, for instance. Chemically speaking, it retards oxidation. Psychologically speaking, thanks to the aroma of its main ingredient, hops, it’s relaxing. So far so good. But its high sugar content promotes obesity.

Or wine. Its polyphenols prevent hardening of the arteries. Unfortunately they also absorb iron. Pregnant women especially should beware.

Japanese sake has some wonderfully positive effects. It is said to lower the risk of dementia and cancer. Like beer, however, it’s over-rich in sugar.

Whisky’s good too – and bad. It reduces blood pressure and unclogs blood vessels, but its high alcohol content strains the internal organs, sometimes past the breaking point.

In short, sums up Shukan Post, “every drink has its advantages and disadvantages.” The trick is to understand both and tailor your drinking toward maximizing the former and minimizing the latter.

How? From various medical sources the magazine gleans some do’s and don’ts.

Start slowly, work your way up gradually. Begin your bonenkai with low-alcohol drinks. Beer rather than whisky. Save the whisky for later. Beer stimulates the secretion of digestive juices. You’ll need them, of course, as the celebration proceeds.

Most people feel guilty about drinking during the day. Actually, Shukan Post learns, daytime drinking is healthier. Consider your liver. This is the organ most actively involved in breaking down alcohol. But the liver, too, needs its sleep, and to burden it just as it’s slipping into repose is an unkind, and potentially dangerous, imposition.

 There’s probably nothing you can do about that, beyond keeping it in mind and avoiding excess. Bonenkai generally unfold at night. Even if the daytime did afford time for partying, it wouldn’t be the same, somehow. “Well, never mind,” you say to yourself, “I’ll drink my fill tonight and rest the liver tomorrow.”

Giving the liver a periodical day off is conventional wisdom – but it, too, has its dangers. There is a tendency to think, “I give my liver a day off a week so I can drink myself blotto the rest of the time” – in which case the exercise defeats its purpose.

To live strictly in accord with what’s healthy for us would have obvious benefits, but they come at a cost – to wit, pleasure. Pleasure is not unimportant. Besides being fun, it too, in its own way, is healthy. So drink by all means, send the old year off with spirit(s) and ring in the new similarly. But – take Shukan Post’s advice. Water down your whisky. With green tea, for instance.

© Japan Today

©2022 GPlusMedia Inc.

Login to comment

Some do’s and don’ts for drinking at 'bonenkai'

Bugger off after about an hour. It’s rude not to turn up at all.

Screw up your health drinking with partners and friends afterwards.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I have a very grinch-y opinion of corporate bonenkai. As opposed to the typical nomikai we had several in a short amount of time, right at the end of the year one of the busiest months already...and then it seemed things got wilder than normal nomikai, with ridiculous performances of that year's hit songs: husband had to wear a T-shirt his sempai coworker had written "kuzu" on in big letters, female employees dressing up in naughty Santa outfits (I kid you not!) all the "-hara" harassment words not uncommon, etc...we're very glad that era is over for us.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

This calls for a drink. One drink calls for another, and another, and so on. Before you know it you’ve forgotten the year, forgotten your name – in a word, you feel great. That’s what bonenkai is all about."

Just splendid, such a fine J-tradition, how long before we can have it listed as UNESCO heritage?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Too many branded Sake. Difficult to choose which the best or healthiest one. In South Korea, its simple, just an Original Soju.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

You can forget the bad things, but the bad things not forget to you, sad problem

1 ( +1 / -0 )

My advice for a work one is that if you like your coworkers and are having a good evening, be prepared to take the lead as soon as the first stop of the evening ends. What typically happens is that you will end up standing around outside that first establishment with lots of indecisive people umming and arring and wasting good drinking/partying time while other members of your group mess about or virtue signal ("Taka chan has a last train at 10:30 so blah blah blah"). Well Taka chan can go home then and leave the drinkers and party people to it. I lost count of how many times what were good nights out ended up with crappy half-hearted discussions that only resulted in everyone going home. My advice is to proclaim "I know a great place! Lets go!" and take charge of the group. Most people will go along if you do this.

If going to a bonenkai or other enkai with friends and are paying yourselves, also beware the person who will waste half an hour trying to get everyone's change correct to the nearest 1 yen when its time to pay. This is also a huge buzz killer.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

A corporate Xmas do?


Hang out with your loved ones and/or mates, instead. Enjoy the quality of their company. Not THE company.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Yeah, these were great little events back before everyone carried a video camera around with them. It got even worse when said cameras had a live internet connection. Talk about weaponizing drunk dialing.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Login to leave a comment

Facebook users

Use your Facebook account to login or register with JapanToday. By doing so, you will also receive an email inviting you to receive our news alerts.

Facebook Connect

Login with your JapanToday account

User registration

Articles, Offers & Useful Resources

A mix of what's trending on our other sites