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Socializing and Drinking in Japan


(Note: This transcript has been edited for readability.)

"I think the Japanese are better than the Americans at having interests versus friendships. Especially with the senior-level leadership, the general officers. They often approach our general officers with, 'Come to the "izakaya"; have drinks with us!' And there is something to be said about what we call 'nomunication,' 'nomu' meaning to drink, so 'nomunication' is like drinking and communicating.

"So the Japanese do tend to be less formal. They tend to also feel that if they're drinking, the things that they say are non-attributable, so they might be more open, and they might say some things that they wouldn't necessarily say in a closed session. But they also use it to build a rapport with our senior leadership that may not have any depth. So what I mean by that is they're better at the whole realism of 'Countries have interests, not friendships.' So they have a place they're trying to go. They're trying to build a rapport so that later, they can send that person an email and say, 'Hey buddy, we have this thing we need you to do.' They're better than us at that. So I've seen general officers on our side who are like, 'Yeah, I have this friend in Japan, we go drinking, he's the best; yeah, he wrote me an email and he wants me to do this thing.' And I'm like, 'Sir, I'm sure he really likes you, but he also wants something from you.' And I think that they are better than we are. So I think it behooves people to have a little bit of caution when they're building these relationships with senior-level people in Japan."

A service member discusses socializing and drinking in Japan.