Beer is the most popular drink in Japan, and Japanese sake (rice wine) is the second most popular. Sake is an important part of Shinto and Japanese culture and one should learn how to drink sake in Japanese Restaurants.
Sake is a clear liquid and has about 15% alcohol in it. It is made from rice and water. Water is very important to make good sake. Sake breweries in Japan are located near some of the best spring water in the world. After rice is washed, soaked, steamed and cooled, fermentation starts by adding koji rice.
Sake is served in a ceramic flask called tokkuri, and you pour sake into a small cup and drink from it. It is polite to pour sake into each other’s cup when you are drinking with others. You always need to know whether your company’s cup is empty or not.
When someone wants to pour you more sake, you should hold your ochoko cup up. If you are drinking with Japanese people, these are helpful tips to remember.
Sake can be served hot or cold. Hot sake is called atsukan, and cold sake is called hiyazake. Winter is the best time to enjoy hot sake. Hiyazake seems to taste sweeter, so people tend to over drink. Be aware that sake contains as much alcohol as wine does.
To drink sake in Japan, I recommend that you go to izakaya, which is a Japanese style bar. Izakaya serves various small dishes of food, so you can have your dinner there too. The prices are usually very reasonable, and the atmosphere is very casual. Try to visit an izakaya when you go to Japan. Do not forget to say “kampai” (cheers) before you begin drinking!!