It’s that time of year again… bonenkai season!
忘年会 bonenkai (or bounenkai) is an end-of-the-year party or gathering; these are for social clubs, coworkers, old classmates, friends, family… everyone! And often you may have a few to attend. I have currently already committed to some myself.
The first kanji 忘 means “to forget”, 年 mean “year,” and 会 means “gathering” or “meeting.” Basically, it means a forget-the-year-party! As it was explained to me by an older Okinawan, his feeling was that the deeper meaning meant to forget the bad things that happened over the past year, as well as the good things, since there is no promise for the future– the next year is a clean slate and a chance to start anew. I never thought of it that way until I heard that, but it actually does make quite a bit of sense; I think I assumed it mostly referred to only forgetting the bad (and imbibing as much alcohol as possible in order to do so, and possibly forgetting your senses as well).
Bonenkai is a type of nomikai 飲み会 which just means “drinking party.” There is also a shinnenkai 新年会, first gathering after the New Years as well; sort of like bonenkai, part II, but this time celebrating the beginning of a fresh new year.
Anyway, typically everyone agrees on a day/time and whoever is “leader” will make reservations at an izakaya 居酒屋 (or some other type of place with food and drinks). It is popular to have an enkai 宴会 option (banquet plan, party plan), so everyone just pays a set fee; obviously it is also typical to also include a nomihoudai 飲み放題 plan (all you can drink) in addition to the enkai plan for a set fee. It is a fun time with friends, to go out and get ready for the new year with chatting, drinking, and possibly karaoke or other shenanigans. It is something that everyone looks forward to as the year is coming to a close.
I doubt I will include any pictures, as most of them tend to be drunken embarrassment… maybe I will try to take some before everyone has had too much to drink at the next bonenkai I attend.