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Will the year-end party season make a comeback from COVID?

28 Comments
Photo: JohnnyGreig

With the COVID pandemic in retreat, one would think there were all the more reasons to celebrate the return to normalcy. Unfortunately, reports Nikkan Gendai (Nov 6), the prognosis for year-end and new year parties (bonenkai and shinnenkai) appears gloomy, which means more woes for the already ailing food and beverage industry.

On Nov 1, the Tokyo Shoko Research think tank announced the results of its corporate survey regarding yearend and new year parties. A very slight majority of the companies questioned -- 54.4% -- said they were planning some sort of event. Those replying they would not accounted for 45.5%.

The number of firms planning parties was definitely up from 2022, when around 60% of companies refrained from such festivities. This year, Tokyo Shoko Research pointed out that 21.8% of the respondents to its survey stated, "Prior to the pandemic we organized parties, but at present we are not planning to do so."

How will this impact on the domestic economy, and the food and beverage industry in particular? Certainly at the height of the pandemic, business conditions approached rock bottom.

"Society in general is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic," Yoshihei Nakamura, a journalist who has long covered the food and beverage industry, told Nikkan Gendai. "But it appears that even before the pandemic customers were already avoiding izakaya (Japanese pubs), and there's no indication they're returning. As the months of self-isolation became increasingly drawn out, the style of going out for drinks after work underwent a change.

"For instance, workers will leave the office around five and seek out places that offer all-you-can eat and drink for two hours arrangement. But the practice of drinking until late in the evening -- so-called nijikai and sanjikai (second and third after parties) is said to have declined sharply, which has been particularly hard for privately operated bars.

"And even in cases where companies have reinstated year-end parties following the pandemic," Nakamura added, "the spirit of the parties tend to be much more low key. Under such circumstances, you might say it's akin to testing the waters, to see whether such parties are continued in the future."

Entertaining the hope that inbound tourists from abroad would help make up for the shortfall appears misplaced. Nakamura pointed out that the sen-bero (very cheap drinking places where one can get drunk with an outlay of only ¥1,000) are aimed exclusively at domestic consumers. Inbound visitors, however, rely to a large extent on recommendations shared on social networks, and businesses that adopt a superficial veneer to attract foreign customers are unlikely to succeed.

"The word has been going around that izakaya in the Ginza area that charge local customers around ¥3,000 to ¥4,000 per head can charge inbound visitors a flat ¥6,500 per head, and that this might attract more foreign customers. Depending on the ambiance, more foreign tourists indeed might come. Fortunately with the yen's present low value vis-a-vis the U.S. dollar, those prices seem affordable, so this won't create any problem. But at the most these are special circumstances."

All things said, concludes Nikkan Gendai, it may be a long time, if ever, before the effervescent partying at the year end and new year manage to make a comeback.

© Japan Today

©2024 GPlusMedia Inc.

28 Comments
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When staff stop wearing paper face covers, thus signalling true acceptance by upper management that normal life has returned, then bonnenkai and such would be encouraged to return. Rest of the world gets this.

-9 ( +10 / -19 )

"Society in general is emerging from the coronavirus pandemic,"

Yes, the rest of the world might have said this a year ago but it seems to be long gone in places I am familiar with. In fact, 18 months ago there was little sign of it in Europe.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

So people are switching to a relatively healthier style of celebrating and somehow this is seen as a problem?

-3 ( +9 / -12 )

Where I live, so many chain izakaya have closed shop. There are a lot less establishments available than there were previously. Anyway, my company does not do Bonenkai nor Shinenkai. At home we have stopped eating and drinking out due to the inflation that is suffocating us.

When staff stop wearing paper face covers, thus signalling true acceptance by upper management that normal life has returned, then bonnenkai and such would be encouraged to return.

I agree with Patricia. I'm not anti-mask. I wore mine during the duration of the pandemic, but I do not want to go out and spend money only to be serviced by someone whose face I can't see.

1 ( +9 / -8 )

Having an end-of-year party is good for the workers. Paid by the company.

8 ( +11 / -3 )

So people are switching to a relatively healthier style of celebrating and somehow this is seen as a problem?

As the article clearly reads:

means more woes for the already ailing food and beverage industry.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Let's hope not. Forced socialising with people you're forced to deal with every day is not my idea of fun. People should be allowed to spend their time with people they like in places they want to visit.

10 ( +11 / -1 )

As the article clearly reads:

means more woes for the already ailing food and beverage industry.

Again, people being healthy should be considered a problem just because it benefits one industry? obviously not. The problem would be the food and beverage industry promoting unhealthy celebrations just to profit instead of adapting to this perfectly desirable outcome. It would be like considering a problem that young people are not smoking as much just because it affects the tobacco industry.

-8 ( +3 / -11 )

Having a party does not have to mean too much drinking. Good food and drink. People don't have to drink alcohol.

6 ( +10 / -4 )

Having a party does not have to mean too much drinking. Good food and drink. People don't have to drink alcohol.

Exactly, and the industry can simply take this and focus their model of business on that, the problem is that it is not that easy to make people enjoy their visit and profit from them without lots of food and alcoholic drinks, so they still want their customers to only ask for the easy way out.

-9 ( +2 / -11 )

I guess some people don't like parties. I do. We will attend several at the New Year.

9 ( +9 / -0 )

It's been a long time since I drank too much alcohol.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

How does focusing on a model of not drinking alcohol actually help companies involved in things like, say, selling alcoholic beverages?

Making these companies the priority instead of the health of the public is the problem. How do you think reducing the rates of youths smoking help tobacco companies? do you think this is something that should be considered a problem?

Most people would think that if people can have much more healthy life styles, then companies getting less profits for not adapting to this much better reality is not something to worry about.

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

I don't drink to get drunk, not necessary. I only drink when I am eating. The purpose of a party is to enjoy the people, the food and drink. It's not to get drunk.

2 ( +7 / -5 )

I always get together with a bunch of friends at the end of the year and we enjoy food and drink and each other's company. We usually throw in ¥10,000 each which is always enough to cover the cost. Anything left over is for the bar.

5 ( +5 / -0 )

"We usually throw in ¥10,000 each which is always enough to cover the cost."

Why not stay home and save ten thousand?

-6 ( +1 / -7 )

3RENSHO

I already answered your question. I enjoy socializing and partying with my friends or visiting an exhibition together.

8 ( +8 / -0 )

Let's hope not. Forced socialising with people you're forced to deal with every day is not my idea of fun. People should be allowed to spend their time with people they like in places they want to visit.

Fair point.

I agree for the most part but I used to show my face a few times a year for an hour or so at work parties. No great sacrifice and it’s basic courtesy.

Toriaezu beer, a shot of Scotch and bugger off.

3 ( +5 / -2 )

Toriaezu beer, a shot of Scotch and bugger off.

And the party was better for it.

-3 ( +3 / -6 )

Toriaezu beer, a shot of Scotch and bugger off.

And the party was better for it

Familiar smell…

1 ( +4 / -3 )

The purpose of a party is to enjoy the people, the food and drink. It's not to get drunk.

Some people you can only enjoy by being drunk though.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Will the year-end party season make a comeback from COVID?

Good question. A lot of people I know really don’t like these events. Some have to go quite a few with co-workers, clients, and suppliers, and they absolutely loathe them. But I hope the shops do good business after the three-year lull.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

Depends on who's paying. If it's the stringy self funded variety, forget it

1 ( +3 / -2 )

wallaceNov. 10  03:22 pm JST

I guess some people don't like parties. I do. We will attend several at the New Year.

I like parties. I just don’t like people anymore. ;)

5 ( +5 / -0 )

These parties are expensive and boring in my experience. I do not drink so I shell out a lot of money so the boozehounds can drink all they want. My reward is to listen to stories I heard during Monday through Thursday. Some people like these parties and please enjoy if it’s your thing but I did not them during the pandemic.

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Went to new office welcome party and made sure to announce that I drink little and go home early. Definitely I would prefer office lunch gathering but that is not acceptable during the workday.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

COVID was already not a reason to not have such parties LAST year. Just saying.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

A lot of stuff changing here. Many young people today don't drink and are far less tolerant about harrassment-type questions ("have you got a boyfriend?" or much worse) from bosses at some booze up.

I had various experiences at work bonenkai, with the worst still being free food and drink. I wouldn't expect someone 25 to see them the same way I do as someone 55. Times have changed.

Where I live, so many chain izakaya have closed shop.

Perhaps this shouldn't be mourned. I used to really like izakaya, but I now think the food at most of them is rubbish and resent paying for enough for five if I take all my family. I don't mind paying for good yakiniku, yakitori, good Chinese etc., because the quality will be much higher. Most izakaya food we can make better ourselves. If you have a bonenkai or shinnenkai of any size, many izakaya will force you to have the "enkai" menu, which will include stuff they do badly, like spaghetti, pizza, yakisoba, and fried rice. For people who don't want a big nama jockey beers, izakayas have little appeal.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

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