Translated by Mai Egawa
Important Manners When Drinking With Colleagues In Japan
Written by Haruka Kobayashi
In Japan, manners are extremely important. If you go out with colleagues there are some important rules you have to be aware of. But don't worry, we teach you all about them.
Drinking together is a communication tool all around the world! But, the manners are different in every culture. So, we will introduce you to the Japanese drinking culture!
1. Service Charge
In Japan, there is a system called "Otoshi" which is the serving of a light snack. Almost every izakaya (bar with drinks and food) has otoshi. This is considered as payment for the service. Some izakaya also includes a service charge for the seats on top of the price for service.
*In the Kanto area, it is called "Otoshi" but in Kansai area it is called "Tsukidashi"
2. Kanpai! (Cheers!)
The Japanese word for "Cheers!" is "Kanpai!". Many Japanese people prefer beer as their first drink but you can order whatever you like. However, don't forget to say "Kanpai!" instead of "Cheers!".
3. What if I don't Like Beer?
There are many beverages to choose from if you don't like beer. Shochu (Japanese liquor) and Chuhai (Japanese cocktails) are two recommended choices you can only drink in Japan!
Lemon Sour (cocktail with lemon and Japanese liquor) is one of the most popular choices besides beer.
4. Start with Some Light Meals!
The standard "light meal" is Edamame (green soybeans). Some izakaya uses this for Otoshi but in most cases, you need to order edamame yourself. There are also Yakitori (grilled chicken) and cold Tofu. Most of the time the food will be placed in the middle of the table to be shared by everyone.
5. Share Your Order with Everyone
After some small snacks, it is advisable to order some bigger meals to share with everyone, Karaage (fried boneless chicken) is a popular choice but most Izakaya have a big variety of delicious meals that go great with alcoholic beverages.
Photo: "BiaBia" Higashi Kouenji
Some Izakaya even offers ramen and many people seem to like ordering it.
Different Types of Japanese Drinks
Nihonshu (Japanese alcohol)
Nihonshu is a brewed kind of alcohol. It looks very similar to Shochu, but the taste is totally different. You can drink Nihonshu cold or hot and you usually drink it straight.
Shochu (Japanese liquor)
Other than the brewed Nihonshu, Shochu is a spirit. In Japan, some people drink it straight but you can also mix it with ice, cold water, or hot water
Umeshu (Plum liquor)
Umeshu is Shochu stirred with Plums. Umeshu can vary from slightly sweet to very sweet and has a sour aftertaste. You can drink it on ice, with soda or water.
General Manners When Drinking with Colleagues
There are different rules and manners in every country. We will introduce you to the rules when drinking with your coworkers because, in Japan, the hierarchical relationship is very important!
1. If the Drink is About to be Finished, Pour Some More!
This is the same with friends or coworkers. One important manner is to never have glasses empty. If you are sharing a bottle, make sure to pour some more when the other persons drink is about to be finished. If you are ordering drinks separately, make sure to ask for their next drink order. It is not only good manners, the other person will also feel very cared for.
2. From the Upper Seat to the Lower Seat
In Japan, there is an upper seat and a lower seat. The hierarchy chooses where you will sit. This doesn't only apply to drinking, you will need to keep in mind all the time.
It depends on the rooms or the area, but usually, the highest person (main person) must sit in the seat the furthest from the entrance.On the other hand, the lowest person must sit near the entrance. If you are not sure you can ask your coworkers where to sit!
Enjoy Yourself While Keeping These Manners in Mind
If you come to Japan please try following these manners to get the best experience of Japanese culture! Above all please be aware that people under 20 years of age are not allowed to drink and smoke in Japan.