Japanese Drinking Etiquette

Social drinking is as big in Japan as it is in the States, if not more so. It’s also a custom that is richly entangled with ancient tradition. So, if you find yourself in the company of Japanese friends at our Bothell restaurant, try keeping the following etiquette in mind:

One of the customs that Westerners tend to find most unusual in Japan is the idea that you never pour your own drink. You need to wait for a friend to fill your glass, and simultaneously keep an eye out for a fellow diner who needs you to fill his or her glass. If someone offers to refill your cup, finish off whatever is left in your glass quickly and hold your glass out to him or her. This can lead to over-drinking to somebody who isn’t used to the practice; if you’ve reached your limit, try keeping your glass full to discourage any further refills.

Drinking does not start until everyone at the table has been served. At this point, a “salute” is made. Raise your glass and say “kampai”, much as you would say “cheers” in a conventional toast. Now you are drinking the traditional Japanese way!