’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