Author: M.Kok

Shinnenkai – New year party in Japan

With the start of the year in Japan come the Shinnenkai or 新年会, parties. Shinnenkai translated means new years gathering, but what is it, and how do you go about one?

What is Shinnenkai?

It is similar to a Bonenkai or the end of the year party. Apart from it tends to be a little more official in spirit and rather than a party amongst friends, it often is an official event like a company party where sometimes even clients take part.

Obviously, the more businesslike an event is, the further it will feel from a party. And If clients are attending, it often looks more like a PR event.

Shinnenkai this year?

Several large companies planned to use this year Shinnenkai to mark the ‘return to normal business practises’ whatever that might mean.

However, with the rising infection numbers, most modern companies probably won’t insist on having a Shinnenkai. But some companies that lean towards tradition might try to push one through despite the calls to play it safe and keep gatherings to a minimum.

What to do if you go?

If you have a Shinnenkai party amongst friends, it will probably be just like a year-end party. With maybe a little less drinking.

If it is a company party, it is likely to be more formal, and you should think of it as a business function. If there are clients present, you will probably get a briefing of some sort.

How to say no?

What do you do if you don’t want to go? Different to the common misconception that company parties are all mandatory, they are not. You can say no without having to explain yourself more often than not.

If you feel more comfortable giving a reason, use the poor health excuse. Say that you feel unwell and don’t want to bother the atmosphere and everyone else involved.


Parties are fun. Or at last, meant to be. One of the reasons to go, other than simply socializing, is networking. Often Shinnenkai events are thinly veiled PR events where you get to meet clients and sometimes even people from rival companies.

But if you don’t feel like going, you should not feel bad about saying no. The good thing about the present work culture in Japan is that it is becoming more and more easy to decline taking part in company functions.

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