Q. Why are the Japanese always so quick to pour sake into another’s sake cup?


There are many terms referring to sake in Japanese. The expression, sakazuki wo kawasu means to solidify a promise to each other by drinking sake together. Another expression concerning sake is, sake wo chōdai suru or to be looked after by one’s superior.

In any society, eating and drinking together is a formality of corroborating that one is a member of that communal society, but is Japan, drinking sake together is based on an intent to become acquainted with the other. When drinking sake together, it is always polite to refill the empty sake cup or glass of the other.

At parties in other countries, it is the host who offers wine to the guests but usually only once, after which it is up to the guests to help themselves. People of other countries may find the Japanese way to offering sake to be a little too persistent.

It may strike people of other countries as unnatural to see the Japanese at a Japanese–style dinner party stiffly standing on ceremony and pouring in a drink of sake to an important person.

However, at a dinner party held in a Japanese–style room, it is the custom for the guests to be seated to the right and left of the main guest in descending order of importance to form a square around the square room. Etiquette prescribes that paying respects to an important person requires getting up from one’s seat and from the center of the room, proceeding so that one is positioned directly in front of the important person.