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Sake rules

Publication Date : 19-02-2014


Among the various kinds of alcohol, sake may be the least common selection for the toast to kick off an evening party. Dozens of local governments have thus established so-called “kampai ordinances,” calling for drinkers to give their toasts with sake. Their ultimate goal is encourage interest in locally-brewed sake.

The Kyoto municipal government was the first to establish such an ordinance, enacting one in January last year to promote the spread of refined sake made in Kyoto city. The government aims to spread the custom of toasting with sake and to help people take a fresh look at the traditional Japanese industry. The local Fushimi Sake Brewers Association says they have seen a good response to the ordinance, and that at the city’s hotels, many customers often order a second cup of sake after toasting with the drink.

According to the Japan Sake and Shochu Makers Association, about 20 local governments have established similar ordinances across the country.

In June, the city government of Hakusan, Ishikawa Prefecture, established an ordinance encouraging people to toast with Hakusan-Kikusake, a unified brand launched by five local breweries.

“An ordinance might sound a bit overblown. But sake brewing is our traditional industry, and there’s no punishment associated with the regulation. We haven’t yet heard any complaints from other industries,” a government employee said.

The Ishikawa liquor merchants association responded to the move by preparing a special piece of stemware to urge young people to enjoy sake in style.

The Chichibu city government of Saitama Prefecture launched a campaign to give away bottles of sake by raffle to drinkers who toast with sake at designated restaurants and ryokan inns before the end of February.

Takuya Kano of Sakebunka Institute Inc. said: “The custom of touching glasses comes from Europe, and there’s no fixed way to give a toast with sake. On formal occasions, you can use a cup, while at more casual parties, you can use an ochoko [small cup] or masu [square wooden cup]. If it’s not formal, use small glasses or wine glasses.”


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