At the end of each year, numerous Japanese adults hold parties known as bonen-kai during which they drink together at restaurants, pubs, and other venues. Partygoers exchange words of appreciation for each other’s efforts and hard work over the past year. Bonen-kai may be large or small, attended by mutual friends, neighbors, acquaintances, or colleagues. It is not unusual for one person to go to at least four or five bonen-kai parties per year.
Many major businesses hold such parties at hotel banquet halls or other spacious locations, with both company employees and clients in attendance. The larger parties may feature lotteries or bingo games, and sometimes valuable prizes are given. In other cases, at more private bonen-kai, participants might wear special costumes, sing songs, or perform magic tricks.
On Friday evenings toward the end of December, most restaurants, bars, and pubs quickly become fully booked for bonen-kai. During this festive season, trainlines and other transportation systems are unusually crowed, even late into the night, and long lines of people can be seen waiting for taxis near the station.