What is Warikan(割り勘)and How it Works in Japan?

What is Warikan in Japan?

In the social fabric of Japan, where group harmony and equality often take precedence, the concept of "Warikan"(割り勘) plays a significant role, especially when it comes to sharing expenses such as drinking party(飲み会). Derived from the Japanese words "waru" (to divide割) and "kan" (calculation勘), Warikan is essentially the practice of splitting bills equally among all participants in a group setting, commonly practiced during group meals, drinks, or trips.

The Roots of Warikan

Warikan is deeply embedded in Japanese culture, with its origins traceable to a desire for fairness and avoiding burdening any one individual in social gatherings. It is more than just a method of payment; it's a reflection of the Japanese values of social equity and group harmony. By sharing costs, everyone contributes equally regardless of rich or poor, fostering a sense of camaraderie and mutual respect.

How Warikan Works

The process of Warikan is straightforward.

After a meal or outing, the total cost is divided equally among all attendees. Someone may say "Warikan -de"(割り勘で) "This method is particularly popular among students and younger adults who may have similar financial situations. It’s common in informal settings like casual dinners with friends, after-work drinks with colleagues, or group outings.

Variations of Warikan

One important point to note is that at company social gatherings where there are senior executives or superiors present, it may feel somewhat inappropriate for those in higher positions or the elders to suggest splitting the bill "Warikan" evenly. When higher-ranking individuals are present, it is common for them to pay a larger share, and this is referred to as 'settling with steps(階段をつけて)"

Setting the steps(階段をつける)' means assigning appropriate payment amounts from department heads and section chiefs to team leaders and staff members. For example, the payment structure might look something like this:

Department Head - 5,000 yen,

Section Chief - 4,000 yen,

Team Leader - 3,000 yen,

Staff Member - 2,500 yen.

This isn't a strict splitting of the bill(Warican). When hierarchical relationships exist among the participants, it's important to note that splitting the bill(Warikan) evenly is rare.

Social Implications

Warikan is more than just a practical approach to handling finances; it’s imbued with social implications. It emphasizes that no single person should feel pressured to cover more than their fair share, promoting a comfortable and guilt-free environment. However, for foreigners or those not used to this practice, it might seem a bit impersonal or strictly regimented at first.


Warikan is a quintessential part of dining and socializing in Japan, embodying the cultural emphasis on equality and collective responsibility. While it simplifies bill payments and ensures fairness, it also maintains harmony and strengthens relationships within the group. As globalization mixes dining etiquettes,

Warikan remains a distinctly Japanese approach that offers an intriguing contrast to the varied methods of bill-splitting around the world. Whether you're traveling to Japan or dining with Japanese friends, participating in Warikan is not just paying a bill—it's embracing an integral part of Japanese social culture.

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