25 Oct 2014

What are the social rules of drinking sake?

The Social Rules of Drinking Sake
image courtesy of wikipedia

Drinking sake with other people in Japan can be truly called a ritual. There are many things one can observe while watching a group of Japanese drink. I will explain a few below, so you can keep from making a faux pas at the bar.

- The first and foremost thing to remember is that you should always take care that other’s glasses don’ t run dry. When the sake arrives, it is custom that the lowest in position pours the drink of the person highest in position. After that, and while drinking, everyone pours for everyone.

- When you pour sake from a bottle or a small sake bottle (called tokkuri), you should ideally hold the bottle with two hands: one on the neck and one underneath. Also, when you are having your drink poured, you hold your glass (however small) with two hands as well.

- When you have had enough, you should make sure that you don’t finish your last cup. It will get refilled until eternity (like your plate in China would be), so if you don’t need any more sake, just leave your cup full.

- When it’s time to pay the bill, usually the person in the highest rank picks up the tab. Mind you though, that this is kind of an old tradition and is sometimes no longer observed in more modern (and especially more friendly) settings. So bring your own wallet too just to be sure.

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