What happens at the nomikai…

Even children party hard at nomikais… just kidding, I guess my coworker couldn’t find a babysitter that night. At a nomikai last year, with sleeping child and the-then Kocho-sensei playing janken in the background.

An important part of Japanese social culture (and a rite of passage for any ALT) is the nomikaia Japanese drinking party held among coworkers or fellow members of some group, club or team. It often marks or celebrates an important calender event or happening, and it usually takes place at an izakaya (Japanese restaurant pub), unless it is the nijikai or sanjikai (literally “second party” and “third party”), in which case it might take place at a karaoke box or even a snack bar.

Along with the arrival of summer has come a large number of school sport competitions, and with lots of sports going on of course comes booze and getting hammered in celebration. Yes, even teachers like to kick back every now and then, and as such I’ve been attending more than my usual share of work nomikais lately. I haven’t always enjoyed going to these parties, as in the past I often didn’t even trust the buffer of intoxication to save me from the awkward inter-lingual encounters and gaffes I already endure with my coworkers every day. Lately though, I guess since I know I’m leaving soon, I don’t really give a crap as to what they think of me anymore, much less care about the usual polite restraint characterizing the culture that I think I’ve been trying to emulate for far too long. So I’ve just been going to these drinking parties, chattin’ it up, and getting wasted… and much to my pleasure, I’ve been having a blast!

At work nomikais, employees often discover their coworkers to be completely different people than they are during the day (awamori has a tendency of doing that… though in my opinion it tastes like ass). Hence it is a good chance to get to know the people you work with better. Beware, however, as at times you may end up finding out more than you wanted to know (that or BEING the one who shares too much). And although the unspoken rule that what goes on at a nomikai isn’t discussed the next morning at work supposedly applies, this might just mean that they’re not talking about it to your face.

Case in point: Tuesday morning after a Saturday night nomikai a couple weeks ago (we had to work the first day that weekend for the school’s big sports day event, but got Monday off instead), I was in the copy room making worksheets for my first class of the day when my JTE, C-Sensei, walked in. I said hello, she greeted me back, busied herself at another copy machine and said to me calmly,

“I heard the news.”

Me: “…” (hiding my panic) “What… news?” (instantly regretting the several beers I downed at the nomikai that made me feel a bond so strong with two young, supersweet, limited English-speaking female coworkers that I convinced myself it would be a good idea to spill to them about a secret [and now over] office affair I once had that I swore would never become known to another living soul at my school)

C-Sensei: “That you kicked N-sensei on Saturday night.”


… I kicked N-sensei?”

“Yeah. S-sensei told me.”

“Wait wait wait. I KICKED him?”(N-Sensei, as in Kyoto-Sensei’s wingman, as in the dirty old dude who gets hammered at the drinking parties and slyly tries to grope the female teachers at the sanjikai, aka N-Sensei who will probably be the principal of a junior high school one day???)

“Don’t worry, she said you did it really smoothly.”

“Oh my God. I KICKED N-Sensei??”

“Other teachers said, ‘Yay, someone finally did it!’ So you’re kind of a hero.”

“Oh my God. Do you think he’s mad???”

“I don’t think so. He was probably drunk so he doesn’t remember.”

“Well that makes two of us.”

So while I guess I am a little proud to have apparently been the only woman in school history to stand up to the office’s resident perv, I really should be more careful at the next party (which happens to be this week Friday). Because obviously, what happens at the nomikai doesn’t always stay at the nomikai.


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