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Tokyo times: Stressed-out salarymen going off the deep end at year-end parties

Nikkan Gendai Dec. 13
Nikkan Gendai Dec. 13

On December 7, a 25-year-old employee of Japan Railways, returning from a bonenkai (year-end party), bumped shoulders with a 57-year-old office worker. The two exchanged words, and they came to blows.

“I guess I smashed him up,” the younger man confessed to police, after knocking down the older man and kicking his face. He was arrested on charges of assault causing bodily injury.

With natural disasters, power outages that forced company staff to work on weekends, the floods in Thailand, Japan’s social pension fund in danger of running out of money, and so on, what can anyone say, except that it’s been a really crappy year, writes Nikkan Gendai (Dec. 13). And now people are taking advantage of the opportunity to let off steam at the office bonenkai.

A certain Mr. A, deeply concerned about the safety of his family immediately following the earthquake last March, had been ordered by his boss, “I want you in the office tomorrow, even if you have to crawl here.”

His resentment came to the surface on the night of their party. Fortunately he took out his fury on the bar’s sign — smashing it to smithereens with a well-directed kick. The repair bill came to 72,000 yen.

For some reason, the people employed by banks seem to descend into the most extreme behavior. At one party, a supervisor dropped his trousers, dipped his penis into a freshman employee’s beer mug and ground his hips, using his procreative member like a stubby swizzle stick. “Now drink up!” he demanded to the underling.

“The girls at the party let out horrified shrieks and the restaurant manager, who saw him doing it, demanded he leave the premises,” relates a 30-year-old bank employee who witnessed the atrocity. Apparently such traditional hazing rituals are no longer acceptable in this day and age.

At a pharmaceutical company’s party, held at a yakitori (grilled chicken) shop, one drunken employee forced his way into the food preparation area, shouting, “I can cook yakitori better than this!” He then proceeded to lean forward and regurgitate the contents of his stomach all over the kitchen floor.

“It’s generally understood that bonenkai tend to get wild during times when the economy’s down,” says Yukiko Takita, a licensed social insurance consultant. “In addition to their general sense of alienation, salarymen find themselves aghast at being reassigned or transferred for reasons that seem to defy logic. And on top of that, they have to worry about layoffs due to the bad economy. They fly off at the handle. The year end party is the one time in a year when they feel empowered to let off steam.”

Takita says she’s been receiving more inquiries concerning whether worker’s compensation covers injuries incurred from falling down drunk at parties.

If the economy ever improves, perhaps people will be willing to shrug off offenders’ more extreme antics; but in the current times they’re unlikely to be so forgiving.

Source: “Kotoshi no bonenkai wa arare kurutte iru,” Nikkan Gendai (Dec. 13, page 13)