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Gaijin Chronicles : Kangeikai and Edamame

Date Published: Last Update:2015/05/08 Food, Traditional Culture ,

Japanese companies usually hold 歓迎会(kangeikai or welcome party) to welcome new employees and 送別会( Soubetsukai or farewell party) for those leaving. In some cases, the welcome and farewell parties are combined into one — 歓送迎会(kansougeikai). These are usually dinner parties held in nice restaurants.The party is usually started with speeches by the company president or any top ranking official and by the 新入社員(shinyuushain or new employee(s)) or the person(s) leaving. Then the appointed host initiates a toast and everyone says 乾杯(kanpai) while raising and clicking glasses.

Types of Parties

Kangeikai (歓迎会)

– Welcome party to welcome new and incoming employees

Soubetsukai(送別会)

– Farewell party to say goodbye to leaving or outgoing employees

Kansougeikai (歓送迎会)

– a combination of kangeikai and soubetsukai.

Kanpai

During parties or gatherings such as these, there is this Japanese custom where you don’t fill your own glass or pour your own drink. Someone else fills it up for you while you do the same for someone else.

The Generic Beer Pair: Edamame

It was during the kangeikai my company hosted for me and a fellow newbie, that I first came to know about edamame. Edamame refers to young soybeans still in the pod. It is usually prepared by boiling in salted water or steaming and sprinkling salt after. These are usually served as side dishes or appetizers.

Edamame

I’m a somewhat picky eater. I don’t eat raw foods and I can’t eat seafoods aside from fish, shellfish/oysters because of allergy. I really had a hard time when eating traditional Japanese cuisine (washoku) which are usually served during these parties. And so I was drawn to try the edamame which I felt was a safe option.

I grabbed a bean pod and began munching on it. The pod was so rubbery that I had a hard time chewing . I didn’t notice the beans or how it tasted because I was concentrating on the pod. Amid big gulps of water to aid in keeping it down I kept thinking how could the Japanese love this when it is such a hassle to eat and it doesn’t go down smoothly down your throat.

Then I saw my Japanese colleague seated beside me grab a pod then squeezed the beans into his mouth (much like popping Mentos) and setting the pod aside.

So that’s how it’s done!!! Another face palm moment. I was so ashamed that I spent the rest of the evening avoiding eye contact with my table mates. For sure some of them saw me trying to eat the pod whole which I was unable to do of course. I ended up spitting it out into a tissue and tried to hide it.  Needless to say, I didn’t take in much food that night. I was already full from all that water I drank to force that edamame down my throat.

Lesson learned. If you don’t know how to eat a certain food or dish, ask them for the correct 食べ方(tabekata or how to eat) If you are afraid to ask, just wait for them to do it first and observe how it is done.

Another thing is, if you are still not used to eating with chopsticks, don’t hesitate to ask for a spoon and a fork. It is better that way rather than risking food to fly over your table and land on someone else. Hopefully not on your boss.

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