End-of-the-Year and New-Year Parties (Bonenkai & Shinnenkai) 2022: 5 Great Ideas to End This Year on a High Note 

Need ideas for great end-of-the-year and new-year parties for your team? It’s not too late! Here we give you five excellent suggestions, designed by Invite Japan, that are easy-to-plan and fun for everyone!

Bonenkai, or end of the year parties for groups and teams, are an important tradition here in Japan. They bring everyone together for a last hurrah, and establish a sense of accomplishment and team/group unity.

New-year parties, or shinnenkai (which are not the same as parties on New Year’s eve), are equally as important. These parties gather everyone to celebrate what’s to come. They are forward-looking, and are meant to motivate the team so that they can work harder towards achieving their goals in the coming year.

In the past, end-of-the-year and new year parties followed pretty standard routines: usually dinner/drinking parties or events at a banquet hall for larger groups. These days, though, there are so many more options to choose from, including online events and programs that are more team-training based.

Teams may feel the need to switch things up for a number of reasons. For one, teams may include people who don’t like to drink, or who find it hard to socialize in larger group settings. Finding end-of-the year and new-year party activities that are inclusive and allow everyone to participate fully can help bring the whole team closer together.

The nature of how teams interact and work together has also changed. We know that in the past two-three years there has been a rapid expansion in telework and remote work. Many teams are located in different areas or even different countries, and so finding a non-in-person option (like online activities) that doesn’t require everyone traveling long distances is a lot easier.

But all teams may benefit from switching things up, even if their actual team hasn’t changed. Exploring new activities and experiences together is a great way to build relationships on your team. It’s also a lot of fun. 

That’s why Invite Japan has worked to create end-of-the-year and new-year party activities for any type of team in any type of situation. We’ve also designed the activities below to be fresh and exciting–these are not your typical team building activities. As puzzle-based programs, the goal is to stimulate not only fun and enjoyment but also creativity and new ways of thinking.  

Puzzle-based end-of-the-year parties?!

We know what you’re thinking–don’t we just want to have fun at an end-of-the-year and new-year party? Yes, yes we do. Which is why including puzzles works so well. Puzzle-based activities, like the ones at Invite Japan, take players out of the normal comfort zones and allow them to play around in an interesting and mentally stimulating world.

In puzzle-based activities, everything is out-of-this-world, everything could potentially be a clue, and things are not always as they seem. It’s this fun, fresh curiosity-spurring newness that allows team members to really open up, get to know each other, and let their guards down, all while having the time of their lives.

Of course, you can always have your regular drinking parties afterwards, too. In fact, our puzzle-based end-of-the-year and new-year parties make for great pre-game/ice-breaker activities before going out together. They loosen everyone up, get everyone talking, and raise everyone’s motivation and excitement levels, so that the whole team will be ready to celebrate together.     

So yes, puzzle-based end-of-the parties. And without further ado, let us introduce our list of Invite Japan’s top-recommended end-of-the-year and new-year’s parties.  

Invite Japan’s top recommendations for end-of-the-year and new-year parties

Activities of end-of-the-year and new-year parties

In-person activities 

If you’re doing an in-person event for your end-of-the-year party, make it Suitcase Mystery. This series of games is one of our most popular ever. Seriously, it’s almost magical how well it gets teams to open up and have fun together almost instantly, even if they have never really spoken to each other before (these games are very effective for new-hire training sessions).   

For end-of-the-year and new-year-parties in particular, Suitcase Mystery can solidify the trust and unity that teams have built over the past year, while giving them an activity that they can actually laugh with each other about. It can therefore be the perfect cap to the year, or the perfect set-up for an exciting new year ahead. 

The Suitcase Mystery series features two games, both of which follow mostly the same format (albeit with completely different themes and puzzles–so teams can play both if they want). In both games, teams are given a suitcase filled with puzzle challenges. The goal is to complete all the challenges in the Suitcase before the time runs out.

A lot of the fun of Suitcase Mystery involves opening new parts of the suitcase to reveal more clues and strange objects. It just never stops. The game also draws players in, so that even if they’re playing in their office or boardroom, they feel like they’ve been transported to another world.

This brings us to one of the best features of Suitcase Mystery–it can travel anywhere! You can play it in your office, boardroom or conference room. Or if you have special venues for your end-of-the-year and new-year parties, we can send the suitcases there as well. 

1. Suitcase Mystery: Classic

Suitcase Mystery: Classic has its name for a reason. The game has a look and feel of a traveling case from the early 1900s or thereabouts. In other words, it looks antique. The story is also modeled somewhat on a world-traveler, around-the-world-in-eighty-days adventure. With this old-timey aesthetic, Suitcase Mystery: Classic really makes players feel like they’ve entered a mystery novel.

2. Suitcase Mystery: Flight Plan

Suitcase Mystery: Flight Plan is a modern version of its predecessor. It features a contemporary jet-setting mystery, where players need to return the lost luggage of a world-traveling art student, and help her finish her project before time runs out. 

While still featuring strange objects and innovative puzzles, Flight plan also uses an online hint system (which works well with the theme) that allows teams to choose how hard or easy they want their experience to be. 

Online activities 

As we said before, online end-of-the-year and new-year parties are great for remote teams, teams finding it hard logistically to all meet together in-person or for teams that work far away from each other (they’re also perfect for teams looking for event ideas at the last minute). 

Online activities are also much easier to plan and implement. They don’t require any logistics work or searching for venues. Simply plop everyone down in front of their computer and they’re ready to go. 

But with many online parties, it can be hard to ensure that everyone has fun. There isn’t the same energy as in-person parties, and so motivating teams can be an issue. Luckily, Invite Japan’s online games use collaborative puzzles that get everyone involved. With enticing storylines and fun graphics, your team will actually feel immersed in an adventure-filled world. Our games show how exciting online activities can be. 

3. Okinawa Adventure

Okinawa Adventure is our newest game, and features lots of collaborative puzzles. Its engaging storyline brings players along on a fun-filled journey through an Okinawan wonderland, filled with talking Shisa (lion) statues and challenges related to Okinawa’s unique culture. 

If your team can’t go on a trip together, this is the next best thing. Okinawa Adventure allows teams to explore Okinawa and revel in its beauty, without ever having to go on an airplane. And it’s the perfect way to bring teams together–either at the end or start of the year. 

4. Secret Agent: The First Mission

Secret Agent is our spy-tinged online game, which allows players to act as detectives on the hunt for a stolen work of art. The game takes players to different countries around the world, adding an international element to the game.

Like with Okinawa Adventure, Secret Agent utilizes collaborative puzzles and asymmetric information to make sure that all team members stay involved and are included. It’s a fun way to add a dash of thrill and excitement to your end-of-the-year and new-year parties. 

Workshops

Invite Japan’s workshops consist of lectures and supplemental team building activities. While they may not meet every team’s ideal when it comes to end-of-the-year and new-year parties, given that they contain educational elements, we do want to recommend them for teams that want a bit more direct team building training at the end or the beginning of the year.

The topics of the workshop include psychological safety, team roles, anger management and more. They are designed to give teams some more context to use while they play our activities, and can therefore be combined with any of our events, both in-person and online.

Because of their educational nature, the workshops are a good way to stimulate team members’ thinking and reflection about their team and how to make it better. And that might be something worth trying for teams that want to aim for higher in the year to come. 

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

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