Otsuki ai (お付き合い) is a Japanese business term that can be roughly translated "mandatory entertaining" or "keeping company". It applies to wining and dining important clients and team building events with coworkers.
Importance of Otsuki AiOtsuki ai is widely respected in Japan as an important responsibility. According to Japanese culture — this is how business relationships are built and strengthened. It doesn't have a negative connotation.
Families are generally supportive of a breadwinner who needs to participate in otsuki ai.
Frequency of Otsuki AiOtsuki ai is often considered obligatory. If your entire team goes out and you make an excuse it looks bad. If an important client is in town you'd better clear your nights.
The frequency of otsuki ai depends largely on your position. A software engineer might only need to attend a few team building events per month. A sales person might be obligated to otsuki ai 4 nights a week.
Generally, the higher your position the more otsuki ai you'll need to do.
Trains and Otsuki AiIn urban areas such as central Tokyo, almost all workers commute by train. This helps to make otsuki ai relatively safe. Some companies don't allow employees to commute to work by car (by contract).
Expense Accounts and Otsuki AiThe golden days of otsuki ai are over.
In the bubble era (1980s), Japanese companies provided staff with large expense accounts for otsuki ai. At the time, sales people and executives spent absurd amounts of money entertaining clients. It was champagne and hostesses.
These days, expenses have been cut back dramatically. However, it's still recognized as a important business function and legitimate business expense.
Cultural ImpactOtsuki ai is a much loved business pastime in Japan. Over the span of a career a business person will establish a great many relationships in izakaya.
Many business people will say that they've solved important business problems on the back of a cocktail napkin.
Otsuki ai is one of the reasons that cities such as Tokyo have such vibrant dining and entertainment districts.