Drinking and Enkai Culture in Japan

Drinking Culture in Japan

The following was written by a Japanese supervisor of ALTs

Driving under the influence of alcohol is a serious crime in Japan. If you are arrested for a DUI, your Japanese career is over.  Plus, it causes a lot of damage in your schools, in your host organization, and in the JET Programme.  Biking under the influence of alcohol is also illegal.

Enkaiー宴会– official party
Human relationships in the workplace is important in Japanese culture. Building a good rapport with co-workers is an important part of Japanese working life. In order to promote teamwork in the workplace, attending an enkai is an easy way to get people together and to have fun. Many Japanese people believe that drinking with colleagues is a key to get to know each other well, which is essential for solid teamwork.

*For starters, in every enkai, kanji-san (幹 事さん), a coordinator/s of the enkai is selected among staff. He/She needs to decide everything about the enkai such as the date, the venue, budget, the reservation, and the timetable.

When you are invited to a schoolwide enkai
You will be asked by kanji-san whether you can join or not. It would be better to go to enkai if you can make it. If you cannot make it, it is necessary to decline the invitation politely and quickly to the kanji-san.

What to keep in mind before the enkai
It is necessary to let the kanji-san know these things in advance if applicable:.
**You are not able to drink alcohol.
**You have a food allergy—specify (hopefully in Japanese) the food/s which you cannot eat.
**You are a vegetarian or have a special eating habit –specify (hopefully in Japanese) the food/s which you can eat and you cannot eat.
**Even if you let them know in advance that you have something you cannot eat, it might be possible that a restaurant will not serve you as much as the other participants who don’t have any request on food.

In Japan there are fewer people who are vegetarians or have special eating habits. At school, teachers usually have school lunch with students and recommend the pupils to be healthy eaters. Except cases of having an allergy or a good reason, picky eating might not be considered as a good thing by the Japanese school standard.

For ladies— It might be advisable to pay attention to clothing at enkais. Low–cut dresses are not appropriate. Many enkais are held in a tatami-floored room. Short skirts are not appropriate in such a room as you may have to sit on a tatami floor throughout the enkai.

At the Enkai
*Be punctual. You should be there 10-15 min. before the enkai starts. “Getting there just in time” is not good because that means you may have your superiors, like the principal and the vice-principal wait for your arrival, which is not well-mannered.
*People often encourage others to drink more even if it looks they need a refill or not. This is a Japanese custom. When you are asked and you don’t want to drink any more, you can gently and politely decline.
*When you have someone pour another drink for you, in return you need to pour another drink for the person who served for you. To pour drinks for yourself seems awkward.
*Having a lot of fun is the most important. Many Japanese think that talking to people while drinking lets you know your co-workers more.  During work hours, staff are often too busy to chat with you. But at enkais you will be able to exchange words with many people.
*Try to talk to people around you. Talking in Japanese would be better. On the other hand, you might find those who speak English at enkai. Enkais are a good place to learn useful Japanese words which are never taught at school.

After the Enkai
When you see the Kanji-san for the first time after the enkai night, it would be polite to say thank you to him/her for organizing everything.

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