Friday, February 1, 2013

Smile Gateway Year-End Party

"Bonenkai season - a blast for some, 
drag for others"
The Japan Times

Come the end of each year, it is an important tradition for the Japanese to have bōnenkai (忘年会), or literally "forget-the-year gathering". This year-end party is commonly held among co-workers or a large group of friends, to drown all memories of the previous year.

This is a long-overdue post but since me and my colleagues were the organisers of the event, I'll blog about it for record purposes. Roughly a couple of months back, my company, Gateway Computer Co., Ltd. had its annual bōnenkai at Kotoritei (木都里亭), a traditional Japanese restaurant in Akasaka, Tokyo. Every year, the newbies who just got into the company early in the year, are usually appointed to be the kanji (幹事). The job requires us to be responsible for setting up reservations, gathering payment from all participants and of course, run the party on the evening.


The participants were randomly divided into four groups.


From left: Samitha, and Ayana joined me as the MCs for the night.

As our company is celebrating its 30th anniversary, it put extra pressure on the four of us to make sure everything goes smoothly. But thanks to the assistance from the staffs from the administration and general affairs, I guess we did well to navigate through the whole party.

Although not all employees from the company managed to attend the party, we still managed to pull as many as 64 of us, including the CEO to join the fun. As an early surprised, Tokyo was hit by an earthquake about an hour before the party started and we were worried that the party might have to be cancelled. Fortunately, the train and everything continued to run as usual and our schedule went on as planned.


Hayashi-san, our boss giving his opening greetings.

The cute little (I guess she would appreciate I more if I refer her as "a beautiful princess" lol!) Ayana was our default MC for the evening. Even though she was complaining to me the whole night she was too nervous to take up the job, I think she did great.

The party started with Mr Hayashi, our CEO giving his opening speech, reflecting on the past one year. It then followed with the kanpai session, led by Mr Shigihara, and from then onwards, it was non-stop flow of great food.


The long-list of menu for the night.


Capelin roe (masago) with smoked salmon, olive and chervil.


Chinese cabbage and boiled octopus, pickled mackerel and zucchini.


Codfish and abalone with sliced yuzu.


Tuna and sea bream sashimi.


Grilled miso salmon and bell pepper on fried tofu.


Boiled potato and meat with spring onion.


Pickled vegetable, mixed tenpura and pickled radish with plum.


Maccha and kinako yokan with strawberry.


Rice cooked with high moutain herbs and the closing deserts.

Halfway through the night, Shimohata-san introduced the newbies to the company, including the four of us. Apart from the newbies to the company, we also had two of us who just tied the knot. Shimohata-san introduced the two happy couples who just got married this year - Kato-san and Ebinuma-san.


The new comers into GWC this year.


This one not very new. They are in fact the old birds in the company who apparently gather every weekends lol!


Kato-san, who was challenged to finish up the bottle of sake in one go, in which he did!

The evening got more exciting when the game session began. This time, we decided to play Bingo, but with a twist. Everyone look clueless when they looked at their Bingo cards. Unlike the usual Bingo game which uses digits, we replaced them with Sinhalese characters instead.

Apparently, there are as many as 108 characters in total! Even for someone whose grandpa is a Sinhalese, I couldn't really differentiate the characters at all look so similar to each other. Some looks like a snake, some like a rabbit and some like giraffe.


This is the specially hand-made Bingo card by Samitha.


Just look at how serious everyone were during the game. We even had one of our managers who ended up coming to the front and sat on the floor to check his Bingo card lol! 


Everyone had the rock-paper-scissors session for the consolation prizes.


The remaining few from the game. So, who's gonna win this game?


Nakazawa-san, who won the second prize of the Bingo game.

Fortunately, there were several Sinhalese colleagues who came to everyone's aid to check whether their card has hit Bingo or not. There were no less than few times that some of us thought they have reached Bingo, only to be told that they had the wrong characters on their cards haha! And to the top three winners - Ikeda-san, Nakazawa-san and Oshima-san, who won Roomba robot vacuum cleaner, WiiU and a head massager, a big congratulation to all three of them! 

The night ended with the sanbon-jime (tejime, which is done three times) closing by both Kato-san and Ebinuma-san. The Japanese encyclopedia describes tejime as a celebratory rhythmic clapping of hands that is done to mark the successful closing of an event. And that was it - my first experience of having a bonenkai party among my Japanese colleagues.


And look at how happy the newly-wed couple were.


The focal point is their hands.

Imagine how their wives would react if they see these photos haha!

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