How to impress your Japanese co-workers during a cherry blossom – or any time – nomikai (drinking party)? Besides snapping countless photos of the flowers, here are a few tips for successfully mixing business with pleasure in Japan.

Don’t Drink Before “Kampai”

No matter how much you’re longing for a sip of that beer, it’s considered rude to start drinking before the organizer shouts “kampai,” which translates as “dry the glass” but essentially means “bottoms up.”

Go Low

Do get into the spirit of hearty kampai-ing, but don’t get caught holding your glass up too high when clinking. The rule of thumb is to always hold your glass lower than your boss’s (or any elder’s), which will explain why everyone seems to cheers low rather than high. Bonus tip: the same rule applies when bowing – you should always bow lower than your superior.

Pour and Be Poured For

It’s impolite to refill your own drink, so what do you do when you need a top up? Simply make sure your co-workers’ glasses are full and they’ll return the favor. Be sure to keep this up as the party progresses – there should never be an empty glass in sight.

Watch Your Hands

When someone reaches over to pour you a drink, pick up your glass with both hands, resting one hand underneath and the other on the side. Also, when pouring for others, be sure to cradle the bottle with both hands, label facing upwards.

Choose Your Seat Wisely

If you are the newest or youngest employee in the company, be sure to nab a seat close to your boss (so you can take orders), with easy exit access (in case fulfilling said orders necessitates moving around frequently).

Don’t Leave Without Clapping 

It’s customary to end off a party with a bit of ceremonial hand clapping. The organizer will announce when the moment has arrived, after which everyone stands for ippon-jime, which refers to the pattern of clapping: three sets of three claps and one final clap. Afterwards, you’re free to call it a night, or hang around for the after-nomikai

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