How hard could it be? Gallop with your co-workers to a nearby watering hole, then eat, drink & be merry until they kick you out. But like the seasonal cherry blossom party, nomikais are not for the weak, and if you happen to be the junior member of the team, your duties will require stamina and cunning.
1: Accept that you may be worshipping the gods of the Porcelain Shrine before dawn
Your enemy is the bin biru, oversize bottles of brew that require everyone to keep a beady eye on the glasses of his compatriots and top them up as soon as the level drops even a centimeter. Because the camaraderie of pouring for each other is an essential bonding mechanism of the nomikai, you will end up drinking 57 beers by the time you add up the innumerable times your neighbor has sneaked more into your glass. The only way to avoid this is to drink “highballs” instead (which come in individual CostCo-size beer mugs), but since the only ingredients in these are whisky and water, it’s better just to accept the fact that the odds are against avoiding paying tribute to the local deities.
2: Accept that there’s no such thing as a nonsmoker.
In the course of the evening you will be secondhand smoking three packs of cigarettes. Get over it.
3: If you’re the junior member, wear running shoes
All those years of clean living and rigorous exercise will now pay off, if you’re the one who has to sprint ahead to make arrangements at the next destination after being booted from the izakaya. When the boss decides to test everyone’s stamina by topping off the evening eating ramen and drinking more beer, it’s up to you to secure a table for nine at his favorite tiny ramen restaurant by the time the rest of the group staggers their way to the door.
Jonelle Patrick writes novels set in Tokyo
Writing mystery books set in Tokyo is mostly what I do, but I also blog about the odd stuff I see every day in Japan. I'm a graduate of Stanford University and the Sendagaya Japanese Institute in Tokyo, and a member of the International Thriller Writers, the Mystery Writers of America, and Sisters In Crime. When I'm not in Tokyo, I live in San Francisco. I also host a travel site called The Tokyo Guide I Wish I'd Had, so if you're headed to Japan and want to check out the places I take my friends when they're in town, take a look!