The Bounenkai Season in Japan

Time passed quickly and here we are, already in December! It’s the perfect time to introduce a Japanese custom called “bounenkai”. Written “忘年会” in kanji, the phrase literally means “to forget the year party”.

Composed of the kanji for “to forget (忘), the year (年) and gathering (会), a 忘年会 is a gathering of friends or coworkers, forgetting the unpleasant things of the past year while having fun.

You can be surprised by how important this tradition is to the Japanese culture! Every company will organize a 忘年会 during December – sometimes even in November. They will usually either call a catering company or book a restaurant and every staff is expected to attend.

From Japanese society’s point of view, such celebration offers the only chance to workers of complaining informally about any problems they had this year. The party gives an opportunity  to open your heart about the worries you had and to let go of the tatemae.

The tatemae – and along with it the honne, culture describe the common concept of public and private face. While honne matches the true feelings of someone, the tatemae side represents the behavior expected by society and the behaviour required according to someone’s position. Although tatemae might not match one’s true feelings, Japanese has to be constantly be careful not to let their true intentions out, except with their close friends.

During the 忘年会 you can frankly speak about what you really thinks. It’s called 無礼講 (informal). Japanese will not only have a 忘年会 at their company but also with childhood friends, University’s circle and old working place etc.. They will eat and drink a lot while venting out the tensions of the year.

Sometimes, this season is seen as a stressful time of the year especially for shy people as they will have to attend several gatherings. For that reason, a lot of articles are published about what topic to bring when meeting new people.


A: Huh already the end of the year, one year goes really fast.
B: Yeah. It ‘s the season of the year-end party, but I am really anxious when I meet unknown people. I don’t wanna go.
A: Yeah, bounenkai is tiresome, but it is the opportunity to speak with people you are not usually in contact with and meeting new people is definitely nice!

At Coto Japanese Academy, we will also be organizing a 忘年会 with our staff and our students! Like last year, we booked the organic restaurant Salt and Soil for its delicious food on the 12th of December 2015! Everyone, let’s celebrate the end of 2015 together!

Coto Japanese Academy is a unique Japanese Language School in Iidabashi Tokyo, we offer relaxed and fun conversational lessons for all levels of Japanese learner. Coto Japanese Academy prides itself on its community atmosphere and fun lessons that focus on creation of opportunities to speak and learn Japanese. If you are interested in studying Japanese in Tokyo – please visit our contact page here.


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