Are you visiting Japan? Or maybe you already live in the country. Here are some practical rules to follow for drinking etiquette.


In general, Japanese society is quite indulgent with the manners of foreigners. As long as you try to stick to the way things usually are done and don’t get confused, you’re probably fine.


Drinking in Japan


Fortunately, the few rules of Japanese drinking etiquette are simple: being a team player, letting go without fear, and helping others feel comfortable doing the same.

Most importantly, never make someone feel embarrassed!


How to say cheers in Japanese


The easiest way to say cheers in Japanese is with an enthusiastic kanpai! (sounds like “gahn-pie”). The kanpai, which is often expressed enthusiastically when glasses are lifted, translates as “empty cup”: the Western equivalent would be “from the bottom up.


Taking small sips of your drink during each toast can be a good thing, at least initially, until you determine the pace of the session. As in any culture, following the example of your friends or local hosts is always the best course. 


-Always wait for the whole group to get their drinks before touching yours. Then wait for someone to offer you a kanpai! Before lifting the glass and having the first drink.

-Make eye contact with those closest to you as you lift the glass. Incline your body and pay attention to whoever is giving the toast. 

-Drink the same thing, although technically it is not necessary, ordering the same first drink as the others in the group are the right way and facilitates sharing. 

-When drinking in Japan, try never to serve yourself your drink. It is customary to allow others sitting near you to refill your glass with your bottle.

-If someone makes eye contact with you, and expresses an interest in having a drink with you, raise your cup immediately. 

-When you’ve reached your limit and can’t drink anymore, stop! Leave your glass full so that no one can give you any more refills. 


Cheer up and enjoy the cultural experience. Drinking in Japan is all about the group experience and a good time with your friends.



There are many traditions and customs connected to drinking in Japan.

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