I hate the Japanese nomikai. Nomikai means drinking party in Japanese. If you work in Japan, you will often be invited to such parties. Declining those invitations can have negative effect on your relationship with your coworkers. And not being invited to them usually reflects your standing within the business in a passive-agressive fashion. Japanese only have nomikai because they are so afraid of expressing themselves in public. So they need to release it with alcohol. Yeah, that isn’t very healthy. But this is seen as important for working relationships instead of being home with friends or family after a long work day.
Last year I wanted to be invited to them all the time when I was at my old school. Mostly because I wasn’t invited. So naturally, I felt like a subclass worker at the school. I wondered why I wasn’t invited. I knew they were doing things. Did they not want me to come? Did they realize it was ackward for both of us? I really didn’t know. I felt like I wasn’t a part of the team because of it.
Since the school I was at shut down at the end of the school year. I was soon placed at a new school. It’s better here and I get invited to each nomikai. They’ve been fun. I have been trying to adjust because it’s definitely something I get anxious over. Not only am I with a bunch of adults getting drunk. They’re my coworkers. On top of that, I hardly know what is being said. Not that I don’t understand. Instead, I don’t know the gossip the teachers are talking about. I am confused by their stories.
After the one on Friday, I can say that I hate the nomikai. First, I didn’t want to drink at all. I signed up saying I didn’t want to drink. Lately I’ve been trying to get into a habit of not drinking. I don’t drink as much as I used to just to get drunk. But I still tend to drink a few beers on a daily basis. I want to break this cycle. At the party, there were plenty of other teachers not drinking. So I wasn’t alone. But, I was coerced into drinking by the other drunk older male teachers. It was my own fault for not standing up for myself. I should have said no, but I just gave in. I need to recognize the power of saying, “No.”
Second, I was asked very personal questions. At the time I wasn’t bothered by it. I was drunk. I ignored them. But when I reflected on the night afterward, I totally had a very unsettling feeling. I brought up my girlfriend at the party because I wanted something to talk about. I didn’t want to just sit there and giggle over stories. Being asked by male coworkers if I had sex with my girlfriend yet, and other such questions is way out of line. This is the kind of relationship building that drinking parties are supposed to foster? At first I thought maybe this was culture shock, but I talked it over with my girlfriend. She said, “This isn’t Japanese culture. It wasn’t right of them. They were being perverted old men. They are scum for making you drink when you didn’t want to.”
Third, it’s generally very boring. I thought maybe it was boring because I was a foreigner with a bunch of Japanese. You know, cultural and language differences. But it seems like that isn’t the case. Many other young Japanese adults around my own age seem to feel the same way. They’re unsure of what to talk about with older coworkers, and find it hard to really get excited over the things being talked about. It’s a waste of time if you can’t enjoy talking and drinking with a crowd you like.
At the end of the nomikai on Friday, I found it hilarious just how fast everyone who wasn’t drinking bolted out of the restaurant. Makes you think.