Party Halls / Karaoke / Entertainment, Gourmet Guide

Japanese people always find a reason to throw a party or hold a banquet. A "banquet" is basically is the same as a "party" with the difference that a banquet is held in a tatami room where you sit on the floor, whereas at a party, you sit on chairs or eat standing up. Most banquets in Japan take place in December.

At these so-called "bonenkai", or "year-end parties", you celebrate with your colleagues, organizations you belong to, or your friends to reward yourself for all the hard work you've done over the year. Sometimes, at these banquets, people put aside their rank to create a relaxed atmosphere so that everyone can have fun together, even if the boss or a senior colleague is sitting next to you. In January, there are so-called "shinnenkai," or "new-year gatherings," to celebrate the beginning of the new year. In March, people hold farewell parties referred to as "sobetsukai" for retiring or relocating colleagues, and in April new employees are welcomed with a "kangeikai," or welcome party. Banquets are rarely held for no reason. The location of a banquet depends on its purpose and the number of participants. If it is a small group, it can be held at an izakaya or a dining bar, but for a large number of people, banquets are held in ryokan (Japanese style inns) or hotels. Politicians and businessmen often use expensive Japanese restaurants, or ryotei. Some izakayas and dining bars have special menus for banquets, and sometimes they also offer an all-you-can-drink service for an extra charge. The all-you-can-drink service is usually limited to either 90 or 120 minutes, but within that time you can have as much beer, wine, or anything else, as you like. In most places, the types of drinks you can have are limited, but it is a good deal for people who drink a lot, and for people who do not, soft drinks are also available. People used to show off hidden talents during banquets, such as magic tricks or skits, but along with the spread of karaoke, singing karaoke has become the main entertainment at banquets. If restaurants have a karaoke machine, people start singing at the banquet,  and if there is no karaoke available, the after party will take place at a karaoke bar. Karaoke originated in Japan in the 1970s and spread all over the world. Initially, bars and snack bars (small bars with female servers) used to have only one karaoke machine, and the customers would sing one after another. During the mid-1980s, so-called karaoke boxes appeared where you could do karaoke without having to eat or drink. Today, most people who do karaoke go to a karaoke box. You can enjoy karaoke from morning to night, no matter if you are a student or an elderly person.

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