Savvy Tokyo's resident "Love in Japan" columnist, Hilary Keyes, answers anonymous questions from readers on everything from dating in Japan to women’s health issues. Got a question you’d like to ask Hilary? Send it to email@example.com.
I am originally from America, I live in Japan and have a Japanese boyfriend. My boyfriend owns a company and now that it’s the end of the year, Bonenkai parties begin. My boyfriend goes to several of these and they usually go to izakaya but he mentioned to me the other day, they usually end in hostess bars and to be honest that concerned me. I know there’s the whole cultural differences thing but I’m not liking the idea of him being in a place like that. I tried to explain it to him but he didn’t understand because to him it’s a cultural norm for men to go to these places. His reasoning for going is because the people from these companies he has to work with want to go, and he can’t tell them no. The nights he goes I end up staying up waiting for him to come home around 2 or 3 am, wondering where he’s been and what’s happened. I really hate it but I can’t seem to explain the issue in a way he can understand. Any advice that you can give me would be so much appreciated!
Dear Culture Shock,
I think an explanation of the cultural differences you mentioned is key.
Japanese business culture is a fascinating thing to study if you have the time and interest in researching the interplay between different kinds of industries, the long history of how certain establishments work, and so on. Taking your coworkers, clients, or business relations out for expensive drinks is a necessity, not a perk.
There’s even a word for it. Nomunication is the portmanteau of the Japanese for “to drink” (飲むnomu) and the English ‘communication’. It refers to the kind of open and more honest discussions that arise after alcohol has loosened people up slightly. What you can’t say directly while sober becomes more palatable and easier to take after a beer or three.
Drinking at izakaya or pubs is common enough, but as you mentioned your boyfriend often ends up at hostess clubs towards the end of the night. For clarity’s sake, I want to point out a few things about hostess clubs themselves.
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