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Cherry blossom blues: why 60% of Japan’s workers want to skip the office ‘hanami’ party

With the cherry trees about to flower in Japan, employees across the country are preparing for the annual ritual of the company hanami, or cherry-blossom viewing party with coworkers. However, a new report indicates that the majority of people are only attending out of a sense of obligation and would really rather be somewhere else.

An online study conducted by Job Soken, the research unit of career consultancy firm Laibo Inc, revealed that fully 60 per cent of respondents did not want to take part in the revelries, which mark the arrival of spring, primarily because they see it as an extension of their work.

Kaori, who works for a well-known company in the travel sector, says she is looking forward to hanami season – but has no intention of partying with her work colleagues.

“The weather is looking good for this weekend and all of next week, so the blossoms will be out very soon, but I will not be celebrating with people from my office,” she said.

“I really prefer a smaller gathering with close friends and family, the people I choose to be with,” said Kaori, who asked that her family name not be used. “Hanami is something I do in my private time so it’s for friends and family.”

“I guess hanami parties could be seen as a team-building exercise at some companies, and I understand that, but I do not want to spend my time drinking and singing karaoke with people from my office,” she said.

Plenty of Japanese agree with that sentiment, according to Job Soken’s study, with more than 51 per cent of people saying they prioritized their private life over work matters and 47.6 per cent saying they do not want to use their limited vacation days for a work-related event.

The study’s 606 respondents were encouraged to give multiple reasons