Sake etiquette passed down from generation to generation.
Drinking culture runs deep in Japan, and sake is undoubtedly the country's drink of choice.
Known more commonly in Japan as nihonshu, sake comes in a range of flavour profiles and can be enjoyed hot, cold or at room temperature. Since sake is so important to the Japanese, a rich set of customs surrounds its consumption.
In formal situations, there is strict sake etiquette. The most important rules are never to refill your own cup and to ensure every cup on the table remains filled. You will have to wait for someone else to pour your sake for you.
When pouring sake, remember to place both your hands on the flask, regardless of how small the bottle is. This is a sign of respect.
When pouring for a superior, hold the tokkuri (ceramic flask) with your right hand while touching the bottom with your left. When receiving sake from a superior, place one hand under the cup and hold the side with your other. It is acceptable for the superior to use only one hand while pouring and receiving.
If you’re drinking in a formal setting, and there is obvious seniority, be mindful of the order in which you pour sake. Start with the oldest/most senior person and work your way down.
For juniors, you may use just one hand to pour, and if a junior is pouring, you can use one hand to receive.
After receiving the sake, take at least one sip before placing it down on the table.
In casual situations, the rules are not nearly as rigid. You can use one hand to pour and receive. However, it's always polite to pour for others, whether you're drinking sake, beer or tea.
It is common to raise your glass for a toast once everyone has been poured a drink. You will say “Kanpai!”(the equivalent of “Cheers!” in English) and clink your glasses together. Make sure that the rim of your glass clinks with the rim of their glass, but gently. If you’re a junior, you must make sure that the rim of your glass touches below the rim of their glass.
Many people do not know how to drink sake properly to enjoy fully its delicate flavour. Though sake production is quite similar to that of beer, sake is not meant to be gulped. You should take a small sip and hold the liquid on your tongue for a moment before swallowing.
All rules and regulations aside, the act of consuming sake is something quintessentially Japanese, and is a great way to experience their delicate and detailed culture.
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