Oshaku Serving Style. Pour sake for others but never for yourself.

Oshaku is the term used to describe the custom, etiquette, or even some would say, the mini ritual – of pouring sake for others while not pouring for yourself. This practice is deeply embedded in Japanese drinking culture and it is one of the most deeply rooted sake customs you’ll see in Japan. The pouring and receiving of sake has roots in Japanese Shinto culture as demonstrated in shinto rituals that still to this day involve sake, such as the san-san-ku-do marriage ritual of drinking sake.

In everyday life, oshaku manners can act as a social ice breaker as well, as the pouring and receiving of sake allow for convivial interaction in social situations. Small sake cups (known as ochoko) are not meant for downing sake in one shot ( known as ikkinomi) as many people think, but rather these small cups allow for more frequent refilling of your cup and more chance to interact and connect with the people around you.

Among good friends, the manners of oshaku may fall by the wayside as the evening wears on, but in more formal or business situations it is important to observe the general rule of only pouring for others. If your glass is empty and no one has noticed, begin to pour for others and they will return the favor quickly – works every time!

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