This weekend’s Best of the Web directs you to Japanese-culture-for-Westerners website Tofogu.com, and their article “How to Drink in Japan.”
I liked this article as much for what it did tell you as for what it didn’t. While last weekend’s “Kaiten Sushi” article was probably a touch more thorough in its posting, I actually think that’s a huge benefit when you’re ordering possibly strange, possibly unpleasant food that you’ve never ordered before, or in a way you’ve never eaten before. But drinking, well… this article is sort of an introduction and overview to drinking in Japan, and from my experience it doesn’t get anything ‘wrong’, but it also doesn’t really go into too many of the details of the drinking games, or the different social dynamics. This is a good thing! It tells you what to expect in a general way, and everything you need to do to be polite and a part of the group, but there’s a lot of space there for you to learn things on your own–by doing. Part of going out for a drink with friends in Japan is the social aspect, breaking down barriers, and getting to know the people and the culture. If you walk into a situation like that thinking you know everything (or even knowing everything!) it removes an opportunity for you to learn with your new friends, or to bond over that learning. It’s important!
You can’t 100% learn how to be social from a textbook, but I’m also a firm believer in being prepared. This article will let you walk into a social situation like a smart, prepared student; eager to learn… until you puke. ;)