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Plan a Bōnenkai (Year-End Party)!

Tant attends a Japanese language school. Today, he finds himself asking his teacher, Mr. Uehara, about Japanese bōnenkai.

Plan a Bōnenkai (Year-End Party)!

Tant

Teacher, I have been asked by my classmates to organize something called a bōnenkai. What is it? I only arrived in Japan this summer; and I don't really know what a bōnenkai is.

Mr. Uehara

I see; it's already that time of year. Bōnenkai is written with kanji characters that literally mean a "forget the year gathering." It means to hold a banquet at the end of the year in order to help forget all the difficulties that you have confronted during the course of that year.

Tant

I see. So a "forget the year gathering" translates into a year-end party (a bōnenkai)?

Mr. Uehara

To put it simply, bōnenkai are like a party that is held at the end of the year to reward people for their service; they involve work colleagues, friends, and family members. It is said that they are occasions unique to Japan, with many being held from the end of November through December.

Tant

I see, so that's why I have been hearing bōnenkai as a word so often lately.

Mr. Uehara

Although the roots of such occasions are not clearly understood, around the year 1400 during the Muromachi Period of Japanese history, I have been told that there was already a custom literally called "forget the year."

Tant

So this custom has been around that long!

Mr. Uehara

Because the old custom of "forget the year" was something engaged in by the aristocracy, I expect that such refined rituals were very different from modern bōnenkai. It is said that the sort of occasions carried out these days by the masses commenced during the Meiji Period roughly 100 years ago.

Tant further asks Mr. Uehara on the location of bōnenkai and any etiquette associated with them.

Tant

Mr. Uehara: So these bōnenkai also have a long history. By the way, where do these events normally take place? Are we talking about locations such as restaurants, etc.?

Mr. Uehara

Of course, I suppose it is the case that bōnenkai planned by workplaces often take place at restaurants and pubs. For such occasions, these businesses provide bōnenkai plans that combine together food and drink as a set plan. Thus, making use of such plans is very convenient. However, for bōnenkai that involve close friends and family, I would recommend a one-pot cooking party at home. This is because many people also enjoy the experience of buying ingredients together and then preparing a meal.

Tant

That sounds nice! It seems that you could enjoy the company of your friends in a relaxed fashion. This time I will plan to hold a bōnenkai at home. While saying that, however, is there any etiquette I should be aware of?

Mr. Uehara

If you are going to do it with friends, then there is nothing in particular to worry about. You can eat delicious food and drink together, while talking to your heart's content.

Tant

I see; if that's the case, I would really like to eat Myanmar-style one-pot cooking. I might also ask my classmates to prepare dishes from their home countries as well. Planning a year-end party has become enjoyable! I hope our teacher will also pop by?

Mr. Uehara

Thank you very much for the invitation, but unfortunately I will have to decline. Then again, I hope everybody really enjoys themselves! I also look forward to hearing all about it in the future.