“Total Torment”: Holiday Season in Japan Loses Its Luster as Workers Dread Drinking With Boss | Japan

Not everyone in Japan is eager to observe the centuries-old tradition of drinking, eating and drinking a little more with groups of colleagues, even as the country begins to rediscover its herd side after 18 months of the coronavirus pandemic.

December is usually the start of the bonnkai (forget the year) the holiday season, when the men and women who spend hours together at work come together for an evening of nominative, a coat rack from the Japanese verb to drink [nomu] and communication.

But many will approach this year’s series of office parties with concern, according to recent polls, even if a dramatic drop in Covid cases in Japan means bars and restaurants are fully open for business again.

In an attempt to gauge the nation’s mood, the Asahi Shimbun newspaper asked online readers to share their thoughts on the eve of bonenkai season, and found that many would silently protest when drinking alongside. of their colleagues and, above all, their bosses.

Many respondents said they feared the tradition, which is said to have started among members of the Imperial family during the Muromachi period (1336-1573), due to the pressure to look after their P’s and Q’s in front of senior colleagues. , while one of them described bonenkai as nothing more than “total torment”.

Their reluctance echoed the results of a recent survey by Nippon Life Insurance, which found that over 60% of respondents believed after-hours communication was ‘unnecessary’, while only 11% said it was ‘unnecessary’. was an absolute necessity.

The largest group of opponents cited the pressure to observe the corporate hierarchy during what should be a carefree social gathering, while others saw bonenkai as a form of unpaid overtime. Over a fifth simply said they didn’t like alcohol.

“The number of people who question the need to get together for a drink has increased as they have become unable to throw parties due to Covid-19,” said Tomoki Inoue, senior researcher at NLI Research Institute, to the Kyodo News Agency.

The Asahi investigation found that the risk of a possible new wave of infections this winter had forced many companies to cancel bonenkai or keep them online.

“I don’t need to worry about what other people think of me even if I don’t drink [at online parties]”said one respondent.” I like the laid back vibe. I would rather this style of drinking continued after the pandemic as well. “

Photograph: Koji Sasahara / AP

Despite the lack of enthusiasm, bonenkai is an important date in the work calendar, an opportunity to chew over the past 12 months and bond around alcohol.

The tradition isn’t confined to the corporate world, with schools and universities, public administrations and local governments reserving unlimited offers at one of the busiest times of the year for the huge economy. nightlife of Japan.

One municipal government wrote to staff imploring them to join in the festivities, according to the Asahi, while another promised to foot part of the bill if enough people register for their departmental bonenkai.

Even if Covid cases remain low, there will be no immediate return to the pre-pandemic days, when the main health risk for party animals was a fierce hangover.

According to business analysis firm Tokyo Shoko Research, 70% of companies said they would not hold a bonenkai this year, even though that compares to more than 94% who canceled last December.

Some Asahi survey respondents did not share the general sense of relief that many companies are suspending mandatory bonhomie for another year.

“The holiday season has helped me strengthen my relationship with my colleagues,” said a teacher from Osaka whose school has canceled its bonenkai staff. “But I guess we should deny ourselves the pleasure since our students are showing restraint” during the pandemic.

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