Japanese goukon (organized group dates) are a mixed bag – sometimes they’re a whole lot of fun, and other times they’re a downright uncomfortable experience. For Japanese women wanting to reduce their risk of having a terrible time, one magazine has put together a list of the top companies to avoid when it comes to lecherous guys at their drinking parties.
What is ‘goukon’?
Goukon are drinking parties where men and women can meet, get drunk, and get to know each other. The name comes from the Japanese words ‘goudo‘ for ‘mixed’ or ‘combination’ and ‘konpa‘ which means an informal group meeting. It’s kind of like a group blind date as the aim is generally to find a potential partner, either just for the night or for the long haul.
This kind of activity is a fixture in Japanese society starting with university, where clubs (sometimes called ‘circles’) will go on goukon together so that guys and girls can mingle. The practice continues in the working world where, with Japan’s rigorous work culture, time to meet potential dates is limited. Typically a single guy and girl who know each other will invite their coworkers as well as friends from other companies so that the end result is that most people at the goukon don’t know each other, and the rest stagger home alone. The men and women sit opposite each other, and once the drink is flowing the conversation gets rowdier, until the end of the night when those who want to pair off do so. Despite the hangovers and regrets of the next morning, for many couples it can be the start of something beautiful!
Hidden dangers: pressure and harassment
However, goukon can sometimes get out of hand, as with the incident this year with a tennis circle at Meiji University where several girls ended up in alcoholic comas on the streets of Shinjuku.
While plenty of these group dates are fun and friendly affairs, where the worst that happens is awkward morning-after LINE conversations reminding each other of terrible karaoke, women do have to look out for themselves. With a bit of alcohol in their system some men can turn gropey and forceful, or when a goukon is arranged by a group of men who all know each other there’s the chance that they’ll work together to pressure the girls into drinking more than they should.
The weekly magazine SPA! asked 300 regular working women aged 22 to 34 about their experiences with goukon, and many of them had had uncomfortable experiences particularly with being forced to drink to excess, being pressured to participate in drinking games, and suffering unwanted sexual advances. Things can get dangerous, as one woman recalled witnessing a man “pretending to look after a completely drunk girl while groping her breasts”, and another certain that she had been slipped something in her drink.
From their survey, the magazine put together this list of the top 5 worst companies or industries for pushy goukon guys. Here they are, along with some quotes from the women interviewed on their experiences of group dates with men from said companies.
1. Marubeni Corporation (general trading company)
“When I refused to down my drink they blew up at me.” (24, travel agent)
“It was at a goukon where it was taken as a given that you would go home with them.” (33, finance)
2. Itochu Corporation (general trading company)
“They’d chosen a dimly lit place and were totally handsy.” (25, apparel)
“The guys conspired together to get us black out drunk, it was scary.” (31, finance)
“They got their target girls dead drunk and then harassed them.” (23, SE)
“A guy followed me to the toilets and suddenly kissed me.” (22, dispatch worker)
4. Goldman Sachs (investment banking)
“Even though he was Japanese he kept shouting angrily in English, I was scared.” (33, IT)
“They started an ‘Ōsama game (type of drinking game with penalties).” (24, cabin crew)
5. NTT East Japan (telecommunications)
“They were all super pushy and the conversation was nothing but dirty jokes.” (33, retail)
“As a group they egged us on to down our drinks, and they were nasty drunks.” (30, finance)
Of course as the aim is to drink and hit it off with someone, a certain amount of lewd jokes and drinking games are to be expected. However, as we can see from the quotes above, there are times when things are taken too far to the point of making women feel very uncomfortable, or even putting them in danger.
The results were drawn from a sample of just 300 women, so take it with a pinch of salt and don’t let it put you off the idea of goukon altogether. However, do keep the dangers in mind, do everything you can to stay safe, and leave at once if things are going in a direction you’re not happy with. The only sort of thing you should find yourself worrying about is whether anyone filmed that terrible rendition of Let It Go (the answer is yes, and it’ll probably be on the work LINE group by tomorrow morning).