Updated: April 17, 2018
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What Is Bonenkai? Japanese Drinking Parties at The End of The Year!

Bonenkai is Japanese drinking parties held at the end of the year.

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What does Bonenkai mean?

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Bonenkai (忘年会) is a big and common annual event of Japan which takes place at the end of every year. The literal translation of the word is "to forget the year party", which means people have parties with the purpose of forgetting about the troubles and all bad memories that happened in the year and have hope for good things to happen in the coming new year.

How to forget the year?

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- Answer: Drink and drink

Bonenkai is basically a big drinking party. It is usually held amongst co-workers, club members, college classmates, and friends. There may be some playing games like bingo where you can get a prize if you are lucky. But for the most part, you spend time drinking and chatting with the people around you.

When is it held?

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- Answer: During the end of December. Usually on Friday or Saturday night.

Bonenkai is held at the end of the year, but not on the New Year's Eve because most people don't like to have a party on that day, rather, they tend to gather with family members and just relax. Bonenkai is often held on Friday or Saturday night. That way, people who get really drunk don't have to worry about having to work the next day.

Where is it held?

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- Answer: At an Izakaya

Generally, a bonekai takes place at an izakaya (Japanese style casual bar), for the izakaya offers a big capacity for large groups of people and also has reasonably priced course meals that include "nomihodai" (all-you-can-drink). December is said to be the busiest season of the year for all izakayas in Japan.

Looking for an izakaya for bonenkai?

What kind of food and drinks?

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- Answer: Course menu consisting of Japanese dishes and beer, sake, and cocktails

People generally choose a course which consists of Japanese-style dishes commonly served at izakayas. The bonekai season is also a season for nabe (Japanese hot pot), so it is often served at the party. Other common items are edamame, sushi or sashimi, yakitori (grilled chicken on a stick), and karaage (Japanese fried chicken). For drinks, beer is the most popular one, but you can choose from many options like sake, cocktails, whiskey, and so on.


Bonenkai is part of the culture of Japan. People enjoy the party (and get drunk), which allows them to forget about all troubles and concerns in the year and prepare for the coming new year. Japanese people can't put the year behind them without having a bonenkai!
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