In the Japanese workplace, being invited out to drink with a coworker can often be regarded as a burden as heavy as any job task. Particularly if the drinking excursion is composed of a senpai (senior) and kouhai (junior), in which the sometimes rigid social obligation of listening to one's senior lecture, boast, or tell stories one has heard several times while feigning surprise and interest is looked at as a taxing effort that diminishes any fun in having a few beers.

Fortunately, maker of the Japan's popular craft beer Yona Yona Ale Yoho Brewery decided to set up a fun experiment to test the rigidness of the senpai/kouhai relationship and ultimately lighten the mood. They gathered up a selection of senior and junior workers and had them drink together. Their conversation confirms the senpai and kouhai dynamic stereotype, with the higher-ups boasting and lecturing about "back in the day" stories.

Only in this case, an A.I. monitored microphone connected to a fan system has been rigged behind the senpai. When the senior worker begins to engage in typical "senpai speak", the microphone pics up on used key words and emotions to activate the fan. The fan then blows wind at levels in accordance with how strongly the senpai is lecturing his kouhai--the idea is to make the workers aware of how strictly they are fitting their roles and encourage them to "flatten" the conversation and just enjoy their beer together.

Naturally, the bosses take notice. As the conversation heads towards repeated stories and salary differences of today and the past, the winds pick up, letting everyone know it's OK to laugh and enjoy your beer.

A second video provides some jarring stats provided by a survey, which says 48% of Japanese workers don't feel it is fun to drink with their senpai, and 67% have noticed their senpai regaling them with the same stories. Meanwhile, 48.3 % of senpai feel that it isn't fun to drink with kouhai, and 54.1% of senpai find it difficult to invite them to drink with them.

Yet 71% of junior workers say it would make them happy to be able to drink and talk on equal terms with their senpai--so Yoho conducted another experiment under the slogan of "Team Beerding", a play on words combining "Team Building" and the pronunciation of "beer" (biru) in Japanese.

The idea was to take advantage of "bureiko", a term in Japanese that refers to when the unwritten rules and hierarchy that govern drinking parties fall apart, and all parties are allowed to speak more freely, discuss personal life, and even criticize each other--all of which is treated as if it never happened the next day. The next experiment provides a prompt with questions cards on Yoho Brewery coasters, and the workers joyously chat and interact in a private sense, without a sense of hierarchical position or company ties.

Member of a Japanese company hierarchy or not, those seeking to let down their hair and enjoy this sort of drinking atmosphere will find save haven at Yona Yona Beer Works, which we had the pleasure of visiting and reviewing, where premium beer and bites are flowing. Given the statistical data that seems to put obligatory drinking with coworkers in a negative light in Japan, perhaps a change of scenery and palette might be a necessary push in the right direction!

By - grape Japan editorial staff.

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