Workers Challenge Japanese Tradition of Drinking with Bosses

By Victoria Kim 05/01/19

One Mitsubishi executive says that "nominication"—drinking with bosses after work—is unproductive and excludes parents of young children.

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drinking with bosses
"Nominication" is the Japanese word nomu (to drink) and communication. Rawpixelimages | Dreamstime.com

The younger generation is shaking up tradition in the Japanese workplace.

These days, “millennials” in the US are drinking less and more venues are catering to sober patrons, according to recent headlines. Apparently, this generation―those between the ages 22-37―is generally more mindful of drinking habits than their parents’ generation.

There seems to be a similar trend happening in Japan as well. According to a recent Bloomberg report, young people in Japan are shaking things up in the workplace, in particular by skipping out on drinks with the boss and co-workers―a practice called “nominication" that is ingrained in Japanese culture. (Nomu, the Japanese word for drink, plus communication.)

Some say that getting after-work drinks with the boss is a great way to de-stress and break the ice between managers and employees. But to others, nominication is unproductive and excludes parents of young children, especially mothers.

As Bloomberg reports, “Some women in particular often resent having to entertain their superiors after a long working day.”

Saiko Nanri, a banking unit executive at Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group Inc. and mother of two teenage daughters, decided to ditch the tradition altogether. She notified her team that she will not participate in nominication. So far, she says, she’s gotten positive feedback from her employees. Parents in particular expressed their appreciation. “It’s not as if I have any special knowledge to share with my staff by drinking with them every day,” she told Bloomberg.

Bloomberg observed that “bonenkai”―office parties at the end of the year that are often many employers’ “biggest and booziest” events―is also falling out of favor among millennial workers. A survey from last November showed that more than half of 20-somethings have little interest in these parties.

Here at The Fix, we’ve also observed the growing popularity of mindful drinking. It’s easier than ever to live a sober lifestyle. Alcohol-free “mocktails” are becoming more sophisticated, “sober bars” offer a place to socialize, and the market for low- or no-alcohol beverages is growing.

It will be interesting to see how this trend progresses and how drinking culture―abroad and stateside―will evolve over time.

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Victoria is interested in anything that has to do with how mind-altering substances impact society. Find Victoria on LinkedIn or Tumblr

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