My last article introduced you to some of the main alcohols that are available here in Japan. I also talked a little bit about who they were aimed at, as well as some background about how the genetic make up of a percentage of Japanese people mean they can not physically drink alcohol. Here is a handy dandy link for those that missed it.
Ok, this article is going to focus specifically on alcohol and how it relates to working life here in Japan. I said in the last article that a few of you might be thinking “What has alcohol got to do with work!?” my answer being “Everything!” and oh boy does it!
So essentially there are key moments in every Japanese company where you will have the opportunity/duty to drink. These are kangeikai (welcome party), soubetsukai (farewell party), bounenkai (end of year party), when you are interacting with customers and finally just the general office nomikai (general drink-up). In most cases these events will be in the form of nomihoudai. As far as I know this is a unique system to Japan that is both wonderful and devilishly self-destructive (though I hear it is also recently available in Korea also under the same Japanese word nomihoudai). How it works is that for a set price and time you can drink as much as you like on a range of drinks. So in theory you can have 1 glass of beer or 20 glasses of beer and it will be the same price. If nothing else, it certainly helps working the bill at the end of the night easier.
So we now know that they are many times in which we will have the opportunity to drink and it will general be in an environment where there is no limit to the amount of alcohol. I am sure that many think “Even so, surely you can just say…no? ” If only it was that simple.
As a shinnyuushain (new employee) in any Japanese company you have certain expectations to fill, whether this be answering the company phones, refilling the coffee machines or making sure you greet everyone in the morning. Perhaps the most important non-office duty is attending drinking events where you will have the responsibility of pouring everyone’s drinks, as well as having to drink anything that is given to you by a superior. This may seem like all BS, but I assure you that it in 99% of ‘How-to’ books or websites on being a new employee in Japan they will cover this topic in detail. Not only that, but there are very specifics way in which you must ‘correctly’ pour the drinks. Heaven forbid you just pour that bad boy without consider where the label is or your own hand placement!
Here is a perfect examples of a Japanese book which is aimed at new Japanese employees explaining about what to do in a drinking situation.