Feb 22, 2018

Know your "Kai's (会)": A Quick Reference List for Workers in Japan

Before I started working in Japan, I already knew about the all-important drinking parties (nomikai 飲み会), but little did I know that there were so many types of -kai events.  I had to learn all of them as I went along but for your sake, I thought I would provide a quick reference list here:

Know your "Kai's (会)": A Quick Reference List for Workers in Japan photo

Enkai 宴会:  The basic term for an evening party.  They come in all variety of types and sizes.  

Nomikai 飲み会 : The drinking party.  Every evening party is basically a nomikai, but if someone is straight-up just calling the event a nomikai, it's a good idea to eat plenty before hand and get your drinking pants on (if you are a drinker).

Nijikai  二次会:  The After Party.  Expect this to include a smaller group at another restaurant or smaller bar.

Sanjikai  三次会:  The After-After Party.  Karaoke is always a popular destination for this.

Yonjikai  四次会:  What are you thinking???  Go home already!

Kangeikai  歓迎会:  The Welcome Party.  An opportunity to introduce all of the new members of the office.

Sōbetsukai  送別会:  The Farewell Party.  The office's chance to say good-bye to one or more members of the team.

Kansōkangeikai  感想歓迎会:  The Hail and Farewell.  For busier offices, these are done about once a quarter to say farewell to those leaving and hello to those coming in.

Cyūshokukai  昼食会:  A luncheon.  These are typically more business-like, since almost every participant will be returning to work in the afternoon.

Yūshokukai  夕食会:  The Dinner Party.  From my experience, this is basically a more intimate (i.e. less invitees) enkai.

Bōnenkai 忘年会:  The end-of-year party.  Literally meaning, "Forget the Year Party," the Bōnenkai is the time to blow off steam.  These also happen to be the most popular office parties in Japan.

Shin-nenkai 新年会:  The New Year's Party.  Basically a normal enkai done in January, a Shin-nenkai is a good chance to do relationship building in your office or with other organizations.

Benkyōkai  勉強会:  The Study Party:  Not really a party, the Benkyōkai is a gathering for a seminar or presentation with a Q&A afterwards.  These can take place at any time, morning, noon, or night.

Kondankai  懇談会:  The Roundtable Discussion:  This is less structured than a Benkyōkai, losing the formal presentation in favor of free discussion among participants on a particular issue or problem.

So there you have it: a quick-reference list so you know exactly what you're being invited to join when you're working in Japan.  

Did I miss any?  Feel free to add to the list using the comments section below!



Hitting the books once again as a Ph.D. student in Niigata Prefecture. Although I've lived in Japan many years, life as a student in this country is a first.

Blessed Dad. Lucky Husband. Happy Gaijin (most of the time).