Traditions: Bōnen-kai and Shinnen-kai

By Angela Davies

All over Japan company employees, club members, societies and many other groups celebrate a Bōnen-kai (忘年会) or a “forget the year party/get together”. These start about the middle of December, and a bit like Christmas parties in the West, it’s a time to “eat drink and be merry”. Drinking as much as you can (飲み放題- nomihōdai) is a feature of these get togethers. They are held in restaurants or more commonly an Izakaya (居酒屋) which is like a pub, but with really nice food. Both places have the facilities for
Kara-oke as well, which is a big feature of Bōnen-kai. Bōnen-kai are also an opportunity for old friends, who haven’t seen each other for a while, to get together.

Bōnen-kai celebrations
December 2022 Conversation Evening group at Etsu, Liverpool
Photo courtesy & copyright of Angela Davies
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Kuunatic at The Talleyrand, Manchester

By Tim Evans

The three-piece band Kuunatic played Manchester as part of their European tour on a warm and
pleasant night in the suburb of Levenshulme.

Kuunatic were formed in Tokyo in 2016, their name being taken from “Kuu” (the Finnish word for moon). The concept behind the music they produce is that it emanates from the fantasy planet “Kuurandia”, giving them the freedom to play around with sound, vocalisation and influences exactly as they like. I would describe them as tribal and shamanistic, with elements of second-album Slits or the Doors plus traditional Japanese elements thrown in. But their influences could come from anywhere.

Kuunatic performing in Manchester May 2022
Photo courtesy of © Tim Evans

The Talleyrand is a small venue on the A6 about three miles from Manchester city centre and is
named after an 18th century French diplomat remarkable for surviving successive French
regimes (royalist, revolutionary, Napoleonic and restoration) with what some might say was
extraordinary cynicism.

Kuunatic took to the stage at 9pm wearing blue face paint and long white robes that were
decorated with symbols representing each band member. Their music was easy and mesmeric to
listen to, bassist Shoko swaying gently to the music as their performance grew accompanied by Yuko’s
languorous yet beautifully synchronised drumming and Fumie’s hypnotic keyboards.

All three shared vocals / chanting. You could easily be listening to a ritual or ceremony, in fact Japanese audiences have described them as resembling shrine maidens. Kuunatic have stated they hear traditional music and chanting everywhere at summer festivals in Japan and this influence has been imprinted upon them as a familiar sound. Unlike some conventional gigs where attention can sometimes wander they
were lovely, hypnotic and restful from start to finish. Kuunatic finished playing just before 10pm, and following their set they chatted to audience members and signed merchandise that was available. I bought and had signed a CDr of their live 2018 performance at the Lexington bar in London.

It really is nice to hear a band whose sound is so far removed from the rest of the music scene. From what I have seen of the rest of their European tour they have been very well received by large audiences on the continent, so hopefully it won’t be too long before they are back again. Given their name they are very easy to find on Facebook, Instagram and YouTube if you want to hear their music for yourself.

This Article by Tim Evans is one of many originally published in Issue 69 of the JSNW Newsletter, issued quarterly to society members. See here for more details on becoming a member.