Bonenkai(忘年会）means “forget the year” and it is basically a drinking party which takes place at the end of the year in December. My father who works for a Japanese corporation has never missed a chance to attend Bonenkai with his co-workers. Of course this drinking party was hosted by his Japanese company. They basically consume large amounts of alcohol, and forget about challenges, difficulties and stress of the past year and look forward to the new year. Although there is no specific date that people have this bonenkai party in Japan, it is usually held in December each year.
I guess I can say that Bonenkai is like Christmas party for the employees. They get together and celebrate the ending of the year through a celebration. Japanese people are known to be reserved and usually they have much more uptight working relationships with their co-workers. But the bonenkai lets the employees loose and not worry so much about their ranks and relationships with their boss and just have a good time together. Some companies host bounenkai, year-end party, at Izakaya (居酒屋, which serves different type of foods and alcohol. Izakaya also has Japanese homely foods and lots of appetizers. Since we did not have family members in town, my father used to go to Bonenkai organized by his company once a year but it is common for Japanese people to go to more than a couple of Bounenkai a year. Peoeple are invited to bonenkai parties by friends and family as well. People even go to 5 Bounenkai’s!
If you plan to move to Japan, you may have a chance to go to Bounenkai!
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