Photo: PAKUTASO
lifestyle

Japan’s 'bonenkai' parties are the worst thing about the end of the year. Here’s how to fix them

16 Comments
By Casey Baseel, SoraNews24

In Japan, end-of-the-year parties are called bonenkai, which translates to “forget-the-year parties.” The idea is that both good and bad things have happened over the past 12 months, but once you’ve made it to the end of the year, it’s time to let go of any negativity towards the unpleasant things and start fresh in the new year.

So it’s ironic that bonenkai, as often as not, end up adding one more memorably unhappy moment to a lot of people’s lives just before the end-of-the-year buzzer. Why? Because it’s normal for Japanese companies to hold bonenkai for their employees, but from the workers’ point of view, they’re actually being held hostage, since after working a full day at the office they’re then pressured to spend the rest of their night drinking and making small talk with their bosses and coworkers, including the ones they don’t get along with.

Granted, the upside is that generally the company covers the cost of the bonenkai, but that just makes the situation not only not fun, but also a waste of money. Why go to the trouble of planning and paying for an event that’s ostensibly supposed to raise morale but actually just makes a large percentage of the staff miserable? The whole thing is a frustrating exercise in illogic to many people, but in addition to thinking company bonenkai don’t make sense, Japanese writer and Twitter user Naoki Matsuzawa (@naoki_ma) also has an alternative that would be a win for everyone involved.

After being contacted by an HR consulting firm looking for ways to make their bonenkai more fun, Matsuzawa suggested:

“Abolish the company’s bonenkai system entirely. Give each employee an envelope with 10,000 yen in it. Tell them ‘It’s not very much, but please go have something nice to eat with this,’ and shut down the office for the rest of the day at noon.

This will help the workers feel satisfied with the company, and they’ll work harder as a result.”

10,000 yen is definitely on the generous side, since the per-person cost of the average bonenkai doesn’t get quite that high. Still, even a moderately priced meal at a pub with two hours’ worth of unlimited drinks (the standard party plan in Japan) can easily run you 4,000 yen or more, so there’s definitely a lot of cash that Japanese companies could be channeling directly to employees instead.

Online commenters were quick to nod their heads in agreement with Matsuzawa’s suggestion, perhaps hoping for the tweet to get enough buzz that their own bosses would hear about it, leaving reactions such as:

“This. This is exactly what salarymen really want.”

“I really don’t want to spend time with my coworkers outside of work activities. In addition to bonenkai, they also make us go to start-of-the-year parties and parties to celebrate the beginning of new projects.”

“Why should I have to look at my boss’ face even when I’m drinking?”

“If my boss was cool enough to give us some extra cash and a half-day off, I’d actually want to grab a drink with him.”

Unfortunately, with only a few weeks left in December, Matsuzawa’s suggestion is unlikely to gain enough traction to prompt widespread social change and save people from getting stuck having to go to company bonenkai this year. Hopefully it’ll have an effect in years to come, though, and in the meantime, here’s a list of convenient lies to help you get out of this year’s bonenkai.

Source: Twitter/@naoki_ma via Hachima Kiko

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Young Japanese women pick least favorite ways they feel pressured to socialize with coworkers

-- Survey shows most Japanese employees don’t like Western-style work socials

-- Ibaraki Prefecture marketing chief regarding their capital city: “Mito sucks! Die!”

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

16 Comments
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Why go to the trouble of planning and paying for an event that’s ostensibly supposed to raise morale but actually just makes a large percentage of the staff miserable?

Welcome to every company holiday party ever. This isn't an exclusively Japanese thing.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

“Abolish the company’s bonenkai system entirely"

Agree, I have attended many and had to work hard to ensure the female co-workers don't become the hostesses. While many companies hold year end parties worldwide, these parties are often catered events in the office and held during office hours since they are "company activities".

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I actually don't mind spending time with my boss and coworkers outside of work - but I hate, like virulently despise, having to always be the 幹事 for these company events. Planning and organizing eats up precious hours during the work day, and no matter how hard I try to play the role of a smiling, thoughtful Japanese hostess, they always find something to nitpick afterwards. I would be far happier with cash and a half-day off.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

“Abolish the company’s bonenkai system entirely. Give each employee an envelope with 10,000 yen in it..."

I've said that very thing (except in dollars), every year. Just give me the cash.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

I just went to one, 90% are juniors 15+ younger than me, I'm feeling the gap, too wide. Like the article says, it's probably better to arrange smaller private parties with people I know.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“If my boss was cool enough to give us some extra cash and a half-day off, I’d actually want to grab a drink with him.”

“Abolish the company’s bonenkai system entirely. Give each employee an envelope with 10,000 yen in it. Tell them ‘It’s not very much, but please go have something nice to eat with this,’ and shut down the office for the rest of the day at noon.

These are the most real statements out of this whole thing. The company believes it's doing a benefit for the employees. But when you are enforcing overwork and underpayment, a party when you're exhausted doesn't make things better.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

The author has failed to realize that bononkai are not a reward for work well done, or a celebration, but another team-building exercise.

6 ( +6 / -0 )

I enjoyed them when I first came to Japan, now I would rather go to the gym or meet friends. Also the Japanese have an annoying habit of trying to show up to these late and everyone has to wait to start drinking, then the obligatory speech at the end. No thanks!

3 ( +3 / -0 )

As Seinfeld’s Elaine said....“It is the forced socializing. I mean, just because we work in the same office, why do we have to act like we're friends?”

3 ( +3 / -0 )

“Why should I have to look at my boss’ face even when I’m drinking?”

Doesn't it make it easier to look at your boss's face? :D

0 ( +0 / -0 )

These parties will be with us until the end of time, and I think most people don’t have a big problem with them. The food is usually good, and you can drink or talk less, if you want to, by spending time pouring other people’s drinks. Yes, it is forced socializing, so talk to people you don’t know welll, and see what they’re up to. If you are antisocial, there is almost always someone who falls asleep drinking, so maybe you can talk to that person.

4 ( +4 / -0 )

I'm fortunate enough to be in a situation where my company is understanding of the fact that all I want to do after a day at work is get home to spend some precious family time with my daughters.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

Enkais are part of this country's culture, and when they are done well they are absolutely superb fun.

Try popping into an British town next Friday evening and see the alternative carnage. I'd rather be here.

1 ( +2 / -1 )

WWow. Your opinion is soooo much better than years and years of tradition. Guess what? Most ppl like these events, you are nothing but a party pooper.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

This guy must be a lot of fun to be around...I usually look forward to these but it's completely optional where I'm at so if you don't want to attend you don't have to. I've also added a secret santa that worked pretty well. Bonus is at the end of the FISCAL year - end of march...

0 ( +0 / -0 )

My company xmas parties are actually really fun but I enjoyed them a lot more before my children came along. I still am able to really enjoy them if my mrs takes the kids to the in-lawsfor the night and next day.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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