Tuesday, April 17, 2007
Nomikai (飲み会) literally means drink-association. Basically, it is a drinking party. In the states, such a party would occur in a home or dorm room, but living areas are so small in Japan that there is a whole industry devoted to providing such party rooms.
The rooms are of varying sizes, and feature long tables that are about a foot off the ground. You remove your shoes (and stick them in the provided plastic bag) before entering the room, much like in a tatami room, but there is no tatami here!
For $15-25 a person, it is basically an all-you-can-eat-or-drink buffet. The food is pretty crappy, and the owner brings crates of opened beer bottles every 30 minutes or so to replenish the supply.
My hypothesis is that the Japanese culture in general is formal (i.e. several levels of polite language called keigo 敬語), and people need an outlet in which to be crazy/silly/boisterous. Nomikai is the perfect place for such "impolite behavior".
It seems every club on campus has a nomikai weekly or even more often. I do not know how the Japanese students can afford to spend such money on drinking. Drinking is much more accepted here, maybe a "national pastime". A couple students introduced
themselves to the class and professor by saying their hobby is drinking/nomikai.
Drinking in public is even allowed, and nomikai in the park under the cherry blossoms is a popular Japanese tradition (see pictures left and below from Ueno Park).
People set up tarps early in the afternoon to reserve drinking party spots under the trees! You can hear the drunkards late into the night during the cherry blossom season.
Above: Weekend afternoon in Ueno park, during cherry blossom season.
(DISCLAIMER: I had less than 8 oz of beer, with plenty of food and water, and I am legal to drink in Japan as the drinking age is 20)
Posted by Tammy at 5:33 AM