It all started with my pseudo-supervisor picking me up in his rad J-van. We then made a few more stops and picked up other members of the Yakuba (town office). Our destination was Matsushima for the bonenkai (year end party). The traffic was rather heavy once we got onto the main drag in the city, which is not unusual for the famous sightseeing spot. We missed our turn once but eventually found our way to the restaurant.
I was greeted at the door by a lady I had never seen before, but I assumed she must work in the Yakuba. She didn’t ask me for the 5000 yen fee because she said that Ito-san and I were isshoni (together). This was a relief because I only had ni-sen en (2000 yen) on me and didn’t want to be embarrassed. Just when I thought I was safe, my pseudo-supervisor came up to me–once Ito-san and I had taken our seats on the tatami in the party room–and asked for the money! Everyone looked at me so I got out my wallet as if to pay him and satisfy the crowds curiosity. Instead, everyone kept looking and I had to whisper that I would bring the money on Monday.
The party got underway with a speech from the head-hancho (this phrase actually comes from Japanese) and a group Kampai!, or Japanese Cheers. Those who didn’t have a chance to ask me tons of questions back in August unloaded over dinner and kept asking me everything from “what’s my favorite food” to “do you like Japan?” Where I got in trouble was when asked “can you drink alcohol?” My answer is of course yes, but the following questions are always a line up of “can you drink ~.” I should learn to say “no” otherwise what happened that night might happen again. Because I said I could drink whiskey, beer, sho-chu, and sake (warm AND cold) I was given each of those throughout the night. This might not be a problem back home because I would just move on to the next drink. In Japan though it is customary to refill the drinks of those around you. There is really a whole art to pouring technique, but the end result is still the same: you never have an empty glass. When you have five different cups for five different drinks that you’ve been given at different times you end up with your own personal bar. After a few hours the party ended and my psuedo-supervisor drove Ito-san and I back to Osato.
That was round 1.
I was given a day to rest on Saturday.
Then on Sunday began round 2.
The bonenkai for Osato Junior High School was more extensive then the Yakuba’s. It was in Matsushima again but was an overnight party instead of just dinner. This means no designated drivers and more party time. It was extremely fun to interact with my co-workers in a non-work setting where we could openly joke and have a good time. There are lots of great stories but what happens at a(n) (overnight) bonenkai stays at a(n) (overnight) bonenkai!