A few times a year all the teachers in Japan gather for parties with their coworkers, usually to mark the end of terms and always at the end of the calendar year. These can get notoriously rowdy at some of the larger schools, but at these smaller ones the limited sampling of personalities usually prevents the crazy from getting off the ground. Despite being a bit overpriced, these are a great opportunity to get to know teachers on a more human level. When things do get crazy, the one guarantee is that embarrassing things it will never come again up at work.
Here you can see our quiz game underway, with the VP at the helm. The guy on the right is the principal and illustrates how the most important people traditionally sits in the middle of the table.
The night started off with a toast, the kanpai (cheers) and chatter. The drinks and food kept coming as we talked about work and winter plans. As always, my upcoming travel was a hot topic, as were their persistent reminders for me to be safe. Typical of my year end parties, we do a sort of competition where presents change hands. I’ve done bingo and other such games in the past, but this time around we had to answer questions about the students’ collective tastes. Because there are only 10 students in the whole school, it is very easy for the teachers to really get to know them. I was of course at a disadvantage here, but I still had fun making guesses about such things as which lunches polled best. Point totals dictated the present picking order and though I was almost last, I did make off with a nice scarf and some gloves that I couldn’t dream of fitting my hands into. At the end of it all, I moved on to meet up with my travel companions before setting off together on an overnight ferry. This is my favorite school, and I always enjoy joining them for these events.
You can see a lot of elements of Japanese drinking culture in this short clip: the pouring of each other’s drinks, the bow, and the kanpai.