Yesterday, I went to two bonenkai, year-end parties. Such a party usually takes place some time in December, and is an opportunity for friends or colleagues to go out and, well, get drunk. It is one of those times when even the Japanese let their hair down.
My first bonenkai was with my English students, we simply met in the afternoon in one of my favourite cafes and had some ice cream. Only one of them had known about the place before, and I have the impression that the rest enjoyed the food – mission accomplished! I even received a little present: a package of red rice – rice with adzuki beans – something that is eaten on special occasions only.
Afterwards, I went straight to another meeting with a friend of mine, and we had a real bonenkai dinner, although a slightly unconventional one: I took my friend down to Osaka, where until December 25 there is a German Christmas Market. Apparently, the Umeda Sky Building near Osaka Station houses the German Consulate of Osaka, and thus, on the plaza outside (or rather, underneath) there has been a German style Christmas Market for years already.
We had a blast – and an enormous amount of food! There were a number of stalls with food imported from Germany: Würstel! Laugenbrezen! Spätzle! Bratkartoffeln! Leberkässemmerln! And of course, lots and lots of Glühwein… The only food I found a bit overpriced were the cookies – 600 YEN for 8 Spekulatius is too much, even if you can only buy them there. The market had quite a good size, there was a large Christmas tree in the middle where people were performing Christmas songs (English ones, unfortunately), there was an Advent wreath and a small train and a carousel for children. There were also stalls selling Christmas items, but I did not find anything I wanted to have; I was looking at a nice traditional nutcracker though, but not for 11.000 YEN, sorry.
My friend, being from Eastern Europe, had never seen a Christmas Market like this before, and he followed my every step with respect to food and drinks. Once we were not hungry any more and had enough Glühwein for the night, we left and made our way down to the river, where until January 17 there is one of the main displays of the Osaka Festival of the Lights. We strolled along the river and underneath the lights near Osaka City Hall, the night was relatively warm (or was that the Glühwein?) and it was a very nice ending to a very nice evening.