Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Bōnen Kai (Bohh-nane Kie): A Japanese Word Everyone Should Know!

A Year-End Party to “Forget Bad Things”

Boyé Lafayette De Mente

Most cultures have created one or more ways for settling disputes and bad feelings among families, friends and co-workers without resorting to physical or emotional violence.

These different ways range from apologies of one kind or another, giving gifts to the “injured” party, having a third person make the apology or deliver the gift, and so on.

In the United States and Europe the routine rise of friction and conflicts between people eventually gave birth to the modern-day practice of “anger management,” counseling and various other forms of psychology.

But the Japanese came up with the most innovative and interesting method of helping people get rid of the anger and resentment that typically builds up against the people around them, particularly their co-workers.

This Japanese invention is known as Bōnen Kai (Bohh-nane Kie). Bō means “to forget.” Nen means “year,” and kai means an assembly, a gathering, a meeting, or a party. In other words, a Bōnen Kai is party to forget the year.

In the latter part of December most smaller Japanese companies and sections and departments in larger firms and organizations sponsor Bōnen Kai for their employees that are aimed at helping them get rid of any bad feelings against their fellow employees and managers they may have developed during the year just ending.

These “forget the year parties” use the lubricating and loosening affects of alcoholic drinks and food to wash away bad feelings and restore or instill feelings of friendship, goodwill and a cooperative spirit among employees.

The purpose of the annual Bōnen Kai is, of course, to wipe the “feelings slate” clean so that employees can begin the New Year with a renewed spirit of camaraderie that is vital to a well-functioning group of people.

Having attended many Bōnen Kai over the decades, I can attest to their efficacy in reducing and eliminating bad feelings among co-workers, and highly recommend that this innovative and interesting cultural custom be adopted worldwide.
Copyright © 2007 by Boyé Lafayette De Mente

For definite essays on several hundred other key Japanese “cultural code words,” see the authors books: The Japanese Have a Word for It [McGraw-Hill] and Japan’s Cultural Code Words [Tuttle Publishing]. Also see his: KATA – The Key to Understanding & Dealing with the Japanese and Japan Unmasked: The Character & Culture of the Japanese…all available from Amazon.com, other online booksellers and major retail outlets. For a complete list of his books, go to: http://www.phoenixbookspublishers.com/.

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