And kanji with manga
Monday, March 1, 2021

nomikai 飲み会

In Japanese, nomikai 飲み会 means literally "drinking meeting," or "drinking party," that is, "to meet," au 会う, in order "to drink," nomu 飲む.

Typically, this term refers to coworkers meeting after-work to drink alcohol in an izakaya 居酒屋, which is a sort of Japanese bar-restaurant.

Example of nomikai 飲み会, drinking party.
Anime: Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii ヲタクに恋は難しい (Episode 4)

After-Work Drinking Party

It's part of the Japanese work culture for office coworkers to meet after-work to drink and socialize. In pretty much any anime with a salaryman or OL you'll eventually come across a nomikai.

  • nomi ni iku
    飲みに行く
    To go drink.
Example of nomikai 飲み会, drinking party.
Anime: Wotaku ni Koi wa Muzukashii ヲタクに恋は難しい (Episode 4)
  • {kou yatte shigoto-gaeri ni minna de nomu} no φ hajimete desu yo ne
    こうやって仕事帰りに皆飲むの初めてですよね
    [It] is the first that {[we] drink with everyone returning from work like this}, [isn't it?]
    • kou yaru
      こうやる
      To do [something] like this, this way.
    • ~gaeri - rendaku 連濁 on kaeri 帰り, noun form of kaeru 帰る, "to go home," "to return [home from work]."
    • ~no ga/wa/tte/φ hajimete da
      って/)初めてだ
      ...is the first time. (literally.)
      [It] is the first time that...

Note that there are all sorts of nomikai, and it's not like everyone goes get wasted every single day after work. If that were the case Japanese companies would be composed of alcoholics only.

On a certain 2017 poll with a thousand participants, 12.7% go to a nomikai at least once per week, 39.6% at least once per month, while 41.1% report not going to a nomikai at all.[会社帰りに飲み会してますか?~「毎週飲んでる」は約1割。ビジネスパーソンの外飲み事情~ - intage.co.jp, accessed 2021-03-01.]

Some nomikai are with coworkers, some also have one's manager, boss, etc., sometimes a client, like there's a business negotiation going on and the parties involved go to a nomikai, and, of course, there are also nomikai that aren't even work-related.

The term nomikai itself has nothing to do with work. If you go "meet" your friends or family "to drink," that's a nomikai.

In fact, even the "to drink" part seems a bit misleading, because typically a nomikai will have a lot of food to eat, too.

A food anime gif. Example of shiitake しいたけ mushrooms with "decorative cuts," kazarigiri 飾り切り, in sukiyaki すき焼き.
Anime: Amagi Brilliant Park, 甘城ブリリアントパーク (Episode 9)

It's not a huge party, but it's practically a small party already, with food, drinks, and drunk people. And it's also sometimes done on celebratory occasions, like:

  • shinjin-kangeikai
    新人歓迎会
    A new member welcoming party.
Example of nomikai 飲み会.
Anime: New Game! (Episode 2)
  • Context: a welcoming party.

女子会

A joshikai 女子会, "girls meeting," or "girls party," is a girls-only nomikai.

酒飲みてぇ ってわけで若林今日の寄り女子会すんぞ! ヒゲさんは来るんすか? 女子会だ ってことは来るんすか? 来ねぇよ 3人で予約とっとくぞー うっす 居酒屋 ホップステップ横丁 どうした若林!元気ないじゃん飲め飲め! 飲んでるっすよ 怒んなよー 今度また日下も呼べばいいだろー
Manga: Ojisan to Marshmallow, おじさんとマシュマロ (Volume 1, Page 54)
  • Context: Wakabayashi 若林 is in love with Hige 日下, who is a guy.
  • sake nomitee
    酒飲みてぇ
    [I] want to drink alcohol.
  • tte wake de Wakabayashi kyou no yoru joshikai sunzo!
    ってわけで若林今日の寄り女子会すんぞ!
    [That's how it is, so] Wakabayashi, today's evening [we] will do a joshikai!
    • sunzo is a contraction of suru zo するぞ.
  • Hige-san wa kuru-n-su ka?
    ヒゲさんは来るんすか?
    Will Hige-san come?
    • kuru-n-su ka is a contraction of kuru no desu ka 来るのですか.
    • Wakabayashi contracts desu and masu to su, ssu. This is sometimes said to be a half-hearted type of keigo.
  • joshikai da
    女子会だ
    It's a joshikai.
    • A "girls meeting" for drinking, and Hige is a guy.
  • tte koto wa kuru-n-su ka?
    ってことは来るんすか?
    [Which means] [he] will come?
  • konee yo
    来ねぇ
    [He] won't come!
    • konee is a contraction of konai 来ない.
  • san-nin de yoyaku tottoku zo~
    3人で予約とっとくぞー
    [I] will make a reservation for three people~.
    • tottoku is a contraction of totte-oku とっておく.
  • ussu
    うっす
    [Alright].
  • izakaya
    居酒屋
    (a sort of Japanese bar-restaurant serving drinks, food, and snacks.)
  • hoppu steppu yokochou
    ホップステップ横丁
    Hop Step Alley.
  • doushita Wakabayashi! genki nai jan nome nome!
    どうした若林!元気ないじゃん飲め飲め!
    [What's wrong] Wakabayashi! [You're so quiet], drink drink!
    • genki 元気 is lively, energetic, so genki nai is the opposite: seeming down, being quiet, etc.
  • nonderu ssu yo
    飲んでるっすよ
    [I] am drinking.
    • Same as nonde-imasu yo 飲んでいますよ.
  • okonna yoo
    怒んなよー
    Don't get angry~
    • Contraction of okoru na 起こる.
  • kondo mata Hige mo yobeba ii daroo
    今度また日下も呼べばいいだろー
    Next time [we just have to] call Hige, too, right?

Drinking Tropes

For reference, some drinking-related tropes found in anime.

Toast

Drinking parties can't start without a:

Example of clinking glasses together, kanpai 乾杯, in a drinking party, nomikai 飲み会.
Anime: Shirobako (Episode 4)
  • kanpai!
    乾杯!
    Cheers! (typical translation.)
    • kanpai - expression used when celebrating something with drinks, typically used as everyone clinks their glasses together.
    • kanpai suru
      乾杯する
      To drink [one's] glass dry, i.e. until it's empty. (original meaning.)
      To clink glasses together.
Aテーブル “杯を乾す”と書いて! “乾杯”と読む!
Manga: Grand Blue, ぐらんぶる (Chapter 2, 新歓コンパ)
  • Context: this is a manga about swimming.
  • ei teeburu
    Aテーブル
    Table A.
  • "sakazuki wo hosu" to kaite!
    杯を乾す”と書いて!
    Write [it] as "to dry [one's] sake cup"!
    • sakazuki - a rather flat cup traditionally used to drink sake, also seen in some anime like One Piece in ceremonies to become sworn brothers and the like.
  • "kanpai" to yomu!
    乾杯”と読む!
    Read [it] as "kanpai"!
    • Sentences such as the above are about how a word, like 乾杯, is written with the same kanji as a sentence that defines the word, like 杯を乾す.

Sigh After Drinking

In anime, characters often, and I mean very often, let out a satisfied sigh after gulping down a whole glass of beer.

In manga this makes more sense because it's normally a puhaa ぷはー sound effect in the background used in a panel whose sole function is to show the character finished drinking a glass already, but when it gets animated it sounds fairly over the top.

プハー 仕事終わりの1杯は最高だね 小林さんかわいい
Manga: Kobayashi-san Chi no Meidoragon 小林さんちのメイドラゴン (Chapter 4, トールと嫉妬)
  • Context: Kobayashi 小林 drinks in the company of Tohru トール.
  • puhaa
    プハー
    *beer sigh*
    (onomatopoeia.)
  • shigoto-owari no ippai wa saikou da ne!!
    仕事終わりの1杯は最高だね!!
    The one glass [after]-work is the best, [isn't it]!!
    • owari - noun form of owaru 終わる, "to end."
    • shigoto-owari - end of work, i.e. after one's work ends.
  • Kobayashi-san φ kawaii
    小林さんかわいい
    Kobayashi-san is cute.

For the record, this onomatopoeia just used for drinking a lot of something in one gulp in general, not specifically beer.

Fujiwara Chika 藤原千花, example of torogao トロ顔.
Anime: Kaguya-sama wa Kokurasetai ~Tensai-Tachi no Ren'ai Zunousen かぐや様は告らせたい~天才たちの恋愛頭脳戦~ (Episode 11)
  • Context: ramen is delicious.
  • puhaaaa
    ぷはぁぁぁ
    *ramen sigh now I guess*
  • kan'in
    完飲
    Drinking it all. (in this case, ramen.)

Red Faced

In anime, drunk characters are typically drawn with a "red face," sekimen 赤面, or, alternatively, blushing lines in black and white manga.

Apparently, the origin of this is genetic, as Japanese people tend to actually become red-faced in real life after drinking alcohol.

rs671 is a classic SNP, well known in a sense through the phenomena known as the "alcohol flush", also known as the "Asian Flush" or "Asian blush", in which certain individuals, often of Asian descent, have their face, neck and sometimes shoulders turn red after drinking alcohol.[rs671 - snpedia.com, accessed 2021-03-01]

Party Tricks

Sometimes in a nomikai participants will have to perform silly party "tricks," gei 芸, or jokes, which may lead to scenarios like a stiff salaryman character not knowing any suck tricks, or finding the whole thing stupid, and so on.

Necktie Headband

Sometimes, you may see a drunk character with his necktie wrapped around his head like a headband. This isn't a practice specific to Japan. It's mostly done to loosen up and look silly.

Example of drunk character with a necktie wrapped around his head like a headband.
Anime: Hinamatsuri ヒナまつり (Episode 2)

Quickly Drunk Girl

A fanservice trope is that at least one girl in a series has abysmally low alcohol tolerance and will instantly get drunk after drinking one glass of beer, wine, sake, or even eating sweets that contain alcohol.

Drunk on Non-Alcoholic Drinks

Since most series feature underage characters, they can't be shown on TV doing things like drinking alcohol, a beverage that's only sold to persons older than 18 in Japan. That doesn't stop anime from depicting them drunk, however, as characters will get drunk even on non-alcoholic drinks.

Shidare Hotaru 枝垂ほたる, drunk on non-alcoholic drink.
Character: Shidare Hotaru 枝垂ほたる
Anime: Dagashikashi だがしかし (Episode 2)
  • Context: Hotaru gets drunk on a non-alcoholic beer-like snack called nama-iki biiru なまいきビール, "cheeky beer," causing Coconuts in front of her to think:
  • naze non-arukooru de yopparatteru-n-da, kono hito?
    何故ノンアルコールで酔っ払ってるんだ この人?
    Why has this person gotten drunk with a non-alcoholic [drink]?
    (emotive right-dislocation.)
    • yopparau
      酔っ払う
      To get drunk.
    • yopparai
      酔っ払い
      Someone who is drunk. A drunkard.

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