Feb 22, 2018
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:
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).