Sake – The Ceremonial Beverage of Japan

Sake is the national beverage of japan. It is an important part of the Japanese culture. While sake is not the consumed beverage by Japanese, it is the most common beverage for ceremonies.


Certain food and drinks have a long history as a ceremonial role in cultures. Sake has been around japan for nearly 2000 years. Japan is a country and culture of rituals, and decorum. Modern Japan still respects the cultural formalities. Sake was introduced as a ceremonial beverage with the Shinto religion. Sake along with salt and water are symbols of purification for the Shinto religion.


Sake is commonly seen in barrels at shrines today. The Shinto religion has deities. The gods are typically associated with nature. It is common to find the Shinto shrines near mountains, rivers, trees, etc. There are rituals of sake and Shinto shrines in the coastal fishing communities where sake is ceremoniously poured into the sea. The purpose is to pacify the gods in hopes of a bountiful fishing season.


Traditional wedding ceremonies in Japan will include sake. Sake consumption (san san kudo) by the bride and groom. San San Kudo involves three sake cups. The bride and groom will take three sips from each cup. The three cups and three sips are symbolic as some believe to be as love wisdom and happiness.


Since the 1800’s the New Year has been a traditional holiday in Japan. It is a rare time in Japan when many business will be closed. Most people will return to their hometown from the cities to be with family. Like many other cultures, Japan has traditional food and beverages for the holiday celebration. Osechi is the variety of traditional foods that are sweet, sour and sometimes dried. These traditional foods tend to pair well with sake. Even if individuals do not consume sake on a regular basis, it is customary for them to enjoy sake with the New Year celebration.


Sports is another area that sake plays a ceremonial role. Sumo wrestling is uniquely a Japanese sport. There are many rituals associated with the sport of sumo wrestling. The winning wrestler and his team will participate in the formal ritual of drinking sake from a very large bowl. It is usually red in color and very big.


Many social and business anniversaries are recognized with the celebration of sake. Whether it is the start of a new business, or the achievement of a business milestone, sake is often part of the celebration.