(originally posted on https://maiawasthere.wordpress.com/2016/09/11/the-enkai-experience/)

An enkai is a good old Japanese drinking party with your co-workers. This is probably the only time you will ever see your co-workers let loose.

The occasional enkai will start between 6-8. Usually it is closer to whenever the last person leaves the office. They go for about two to three hours, which is pretty responsible considering how much the Japanese can actually drink within that time.

Japan is known for its zero tolerance to drinking while driving. Thankfully, restaurants that cater to enkais (izakaya) provide non-alcoholic beer. When I first tried this, I was a bit surprised. It tastes like regular beer without the intoxication. 

If you accidentally drink real beer, or decide to drink alcohol, there are services that you can use to get home. Daiko is like an angel when you get even a little intoxicated. What happens after you call a Daiko is two men will come in a taxi. One man will drive your car with you in it, and the other will follow in the taxi. When they arrive at your house, you pay for the service and the man who drove your car will hop into the taxi and move on to pick up the next drunk person. Sometimes Daiko services will have a points card that you can use for discounts. Seems like a great incentive to have them on speed dial.

Enkai’s are not all about just drinking, but it is also about the food. The normal group rate for an enkai is around 5,000¥-8,000¥ per person. This price pays for the drinks, the food, and the rent for the space. $50 may seem steep for each person, but the food at an enkai is like a five course meal. In some cases, the food will already be set in front of you, in others it will be brought in by servers. The food in general will always be different, depending on the izakaya’s specialty, but it will always involve sashimi (raw fish), some kind of sushi, and tempura (deep fried)

So you’re probably wondering on what occasion an enkai is held. Usually enkai’s happen after a big company event, or at the beginning and end of the year. There has to be a definite reason to have an enkai.

I’ve been to a few enkai’s already, and each time, I’ve always been worried about what to wear.Never wear jeans. Don’t be late. Enkai’s can be a bit more relaxed than in the office, but remember that most co-workers may be coming straight from work, so they will still be in their suit. If you are uncomfortable being in your suit all day, then you can dress down a little, but make sure that your clothes are still representable and appropriate. Of course, this all depends on what line of work you are in, and if all else fails, just ask what is appropriate to wear.

So what actually happens at these enkai’s? The night will usually start off with announcements from the person or persons who set up the party. Then everybody gets their drinks and the famous “KANPAI!” happens. Directly after that, go to every single person in the room and clink glasses. Then you can take a drink and start to eat.  The rest of the night consists of drunk speeches and moving around to talk to different groups of people. The night ends with another speech, then the Daiko’s are called, and everyone leaves.

Enkai’s are quite fun to go to and the invitation should not be denied. Just be sure not to eat a lot beforehand, drink responsibly, and just enjoy yourself.

Published by Maia Malanee