You can’t spell “mystery” without a “mys.”

With the end of every year comes the annual Japanese custom of bonenkai year-end company parties. While surveys have shown these events to be dreadful affairs for many workers, ours have been consistent successes in recent years, with our Japanese writers visiting some of the finest eateries in Tokyo.

Last year’s shindig

However, this year our streak of year-end blowouts was in danger of getting blown out of the water. It all started when Mr. Sato stood up to make an announcement that he would not be able to attend this year’s festivities due to a family emergency.

The news threw the office into turmoil as Mr. Sato was a key figure in organizing the year-end parties as well as being the life of them.

Luckily, all was not lost as Mr. Sato also informed everyone that he was entrusting the party-organizing duties to Yoshio this year. This, however, did little to assuage fears in the office as Yoshio was also the guy who paid everyone’s bonus in one-yen coins and once raised a chocolate egg.

When the day of the party came, everyone gathered in front of the office building before heading to the venue. No one had been told where it was going to be this year, but the last few years set such a high bar that even if this one didn’t quite match that level, it’d still probably be pretty decent.

Yoshio led the group through the streets and alleys of Tokyo to their destination.

He seemed to move with purpose, weaving through the crowded streets and busy intersections as if excited to reveal this year’s secret party location.

And since Tokyo was so loaded with quality restaurants there was no way anyone could tell where he was going by direction alone.

Yoshio seemed to slow down near a sign that read “Kani Doraku,” a chain of restaurants specializing in crab dishes. Although it was a chain, it was a pretty high-end chain and one that seemed perfectly reasonable for such a last-minute choice.

Yoshio stopped and stared at the sign as if contemplating something. Maybe he wasn’t sure he had the right Kani Doraku location?

The rest of the staff all had big smiles on their faces and they hungrily stared at the sample dishes in the storefront showcase.

However, bit by bit those smiles began to fade the longer Yoshio stood motionless outside the restaurant.

Suddenly, Yoshio started walking forward again without saying a word, leaving his writers momentarily stunned behind him.

Whether that was an intentional trick to heighten the suspense or not was unclear as the group continued to trek through the cold streets of Tokyo.

While they were stopped at a crosswalk, Takashi Harada noticed that Yoshio was looking up at something as if fixated by it.

Takashi’s eyes followed the gaze of Yoshio and what he saw shook him to the core.

His mind struggled to process what he was looking at and he could only stare motionless at the same thing he was sure his boss was looking at.

“Saizeriya Ristorante & Cafe”

Saizeriya is a well-known and beloved chain of Italian-ish restaurants which in terms of authenticity, makes the Olive Garden feel like a family-run bistro in Milan. Its other claim to fame is being one of the cheapest places to eat out in the entire country.

In fairness, the food is quite tasty. Still, it was the last place any of these people were expecting to have their year-end party.

Thanks to its delicious food at very reasonable prices, this Saizeriya was very busy and everyone had to wait in line. Takashi was still trying to come to grips with the situation as he stood on the staircase.

Inside the restaurant, the staff hurriedly waited on tables and assured our own staff that some spaces would be available shortly.

Meanwhile, the lineup of writers remained eerily silent and still along the staircase.

Some tried to make the best of the situation by taking commemorative pictures of the year-end-party venue… either that or they were gathering evidence for a lawsuit later on.

Others took the time to admire the reproductions of famous works of Italian art hanging throughout the dining area…

…or simply wallowed in despair.

Saizeriya tends to cater more toward families with young children or cash-strapped students, so finding a table for 11 people proved challenging.

Yoshio also reasonably assumed there was no reservation system here, so it took the restaurant about 13 minutes to get something ready.

A waiter informed Yoshio that the best they could do is secure three tables in different parts of the dining area. That would have to do.

Everyone was led through the restaurant and broke off into groups of three or four as they went along.

In the end, there were three tables: The Yoshio Table in the far corner near the self-service fountain drinks, the P.K. Sanjun Table off to the side, and the Seiji Nakazawa Table in the heart of it all.

Although cozy, this setup had the disadvantage of everyone being separated, and year-end parties are meant to be team-building experiences.

Luckily, our company prides itself on working in the IT field…

…so we know that when life puts up an obstacle, information technology has the answer.

A video conference was set up between phones at each table so everyone could stay in touch from the comfort of their seats throughout the night.

Considering it would be hard for people to communicate from opposite ends of a big table of 11 people, you could even say this was an improvement.

The time came for Yoshio to kick off the festivities with a remote toast. He appeared on the heavily pixelated display constantly glitching out from the weak connection inside the busy restaurant.

Yoshio: “Thank you *tck* all for coming to this fine esta*tck*blishment this evening for some exquisitely microwaved Italian *tck* cuisine.”

Yoshio: “As *tck* you know this has been an especially difficult year for *tck* rising prices, and cut*t*t*ting costs has *tck* always *tck* been my primary concern.”

Yoshio: “But *tck* that’s no reason why we still *tck*tck*tck* cannot feast to celebrate this, the *tck* year of our dragon! Kampai!”

But despite all the technical glitches and budgeting, everyone seemed to be enjoying themselves just fine.

After all, it’s the people that make the party and not even the finest restaurants in the world can replace that.

In a weird way, coming to Saizeriya really brought this point home and reminded everyone why this is such a great place to work.

This was not at all Yoshio’s intent as he was just trying to save some money, but he’ll have no problem taking credit for it.

However, trouble was afoot at the P.K. Sanjun Table. The joy of Saizeriya was not warming the hearts of these gloomy Gusses.

It would appear there was an outbreak of sourpussitis at this table, and Yoshio had to act fast to stop the spread.

But rather than a quarantine, Dr. Yoshio decided to fight the disease by spreading these guys to the happier tables for 50cc of fun!

Bit by bit, those frowns too were turning upside down. It was a Saizeriya miracle!

Yes, it just goes to show that it’s not the place that makes the party but the people.

A feeling hung in the air that no matter what 2024 brought their way, they’d be able to handle it together.

And best of all, when tallying up the bills for each table, the total cost of this event came to just 49,950 yen (US$350) only about one-sixth of the cost of previous parties.

And judging by the final photo of the evening, nine out of the 11 participants walked away happy. Those are results any yen-conscious party planner should be proud of.

More importantly, everyone’s relationships grew by leaps and bounds to unprecedented levels. The bonds strengthened here under the Saizeriya banner were likely never to break for years to come, and because of it you can expect another year of excellent content forged by a collection of writers acting as one without a single weak link in the organization.

Mr. Sato: “Hey guys, happy new year! What did I miss?”


Photos © SoraNews24
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[ Read in Japanese ]