Alcoholic Beverages & Drinking Rituals

Yes, there are even rituals surrounding drinking. Japanese people tend not to entertain in their homes. Alcohol consumption is part of the Japanese culture and a specific etiquette has grown up around the practice.

  • Do not drink directly from the bottle. Use the provided glass.
  • When drinking in public, always allow someone else to fill your glass (tricky if there are just two of you), and never allow the glasses of your companions to become completely empty.
  • While the Japanese have reputations as heavy drinkers, we noticed a behavior we call the “one-drink maximum”. Parties would enter an establishment, have a drink, and then move on. It is appropriate to exercise moderation (and, oddly, to have some beverage remaining in your glass when you’re ready to leave the establishment).
  • Drink only after everyone in your party has been served. If you’re in a business situation, you are expected to wait until the “head” person in the party starts drinking.
  • The traditional salute is “kampai” (kahm-pie). Chin chin refers to male genitals. Just a warning.
  • If you don’t drink, and are in a situation where it is expected, have a plausible excuse handy (medical reasons, perhaps).