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Coronavirus drives Japan workmates to drink and bond online

Companies pay for virtual 'nomikai' to beat isolation and boost staff morale

Linkbal held a workplace party in groups of four people to facilitate conversation. (Photo courtesy of Linkbal)

TOKYO -- Few Japanese customs are so beloved of its millions of company employees as the "nomikai" -- the after-work drinking party that is a chance to bond with colleagues, let the hair down and tell a few home truths to the bosses before knuckling down to office life the next day.

Now online "nomikai" are becoming a trend after Japan's government decreed a state of emergency in Tokyo and other big cities. Bar opening hours have been limited and Japanese urged to observe social distancing to contain the coronavirus spread.

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