Japan is one of those countries that has a proper drinking manner at the table even if it’s only casual. Of course, many of you might have read or seen it already that you will have to pour for another person and never pour for yourselves. Well, that is indeed correct but there’s more to it!
When someone pours you the drink, look at them and just bow your head lightly. Just so they know that you’ve acknowledged the pouring. Then, you two drink at the same time. This usually happens when the other person already has his/her glass full.
As for me, that’s quite lonely so I am always the one who pours it for those around me. The person next to me is usually the one who will pour me the beer after I filled everybody’s glasses. Then, we hold the glasses and KANPAI! (It is fun and adds energy to the table.)
If you just drink it without saying kanpai or acknowledging the person who pours, it is considered to be quite rude.
Of course, there’s an art. There’s always art in every teeny tiny bit of the Japanese way of doing things. If you look at the picture, it is almost perfect. It is acceptable, since you’re a foreigner anyway, to be able to understand that you pour for others is already showing that you pay attention to manners. However, if you want to be perfect, follow these steps.
Pick up the bottle in front of you with one hand.
Turn to your target (usually those seated on your left and right but can be extended to a bit further) and wait for them to hold their glasses up to you.
Use your other hand to hold around the neck of the bottle.
With the hand that you use to pick up the bottle, use it put your fingers on the heel (base) of the bottle.
Rotate the bottle to make sure that the label of the bottle is facing up and gently pour.
This applies to all kinds of bottles at your table. Also, keep an eye on the glasses because you want to fill them up as soon as you see they are starting to look empty. Let’s say when there’s only 2/3 left.
Done! Now you’ve mastered the Art of Pouring.
Now it’s your turn to have your glass filled.
This one is easy. Just pick up the right glass for the right bottle.
This is from the reception party I got invited to so it’s a bit more proper. The small one on the left is for Japanese sake only. The one already filled with beer is for beer.
When whoever has the bottle ready in front of you, pick up the glass with both hands and bow your head just a little bit to show your gratitude. You can also do the kanpai (if there are more people ready for it).
As I’ve been to many similar events, I’ve learned that Japanese don’t usually do bottoms up. I was told by one of the people from the ministry of education at the town I’m currently living in that they drink a lot but they don’t do bottoms up because you will get drunk easily. It is better to drink slowly to enjoy the flavor of the beer and the food.
With this, I believe you will be perfectly fine when attending a drinking party or even a business party. As for me, once I mastered this, I really enjoy being the one to pour. It’s fun and it’s like playing a game because someone will always be the one who wants to pour as well. So you have to act fast!
Have you been to an outing where you needed to be the one to fill glasses? Let us know your experiences with Japanese drinking customs!