Japan Drinking Culture | 4 Tips How to Drink like a Japanese

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“Hey Shen! You drank before everybody else! We should toast together!”
I put down my glass and sat straight to wait for the toast, with a lot of question marks in my head.

“Hey Shen! Don’t you see the glass is empty? You should notice it and pour for others!”
Ooops, sorry! I was a bit preoccupied with the conversation sir. Let me pour for you.

Have you seen these scenes in Japan? Or have you said such things to a foreigner as cute as me, not knowing how to drink like a Japanese? Drinking culture in Japan is very complicated. You have to consider the seniority system and the “Soto & Uchi” (insider & oursider) relations.

For example, you are drinking with a person older than you (seniority), you have to pour for him. But what about drinking with him in his house? As a host (Soto & Uchi), he will pour for you even though he is older than you.


I know, I know. This is what you are thinking right now. Calm down lol. It’s really complicated and I have failed many times while drinking with Japanese. BUT there are rules! There are rules that we can learn how to drink like a Japanese! 🙂

If you are the foreigner who has the same problem with me, check out the tips how to drink like a Japanese. Tell you what, I heard that a foreigner who can drink like a Japanese will look very cute in their eyes. Make sure you learn all these tips if you are considering a Japanese girl friend. lol


4 Tips How to Drink Like a Japanese

How to drink like a Japanese

#1 Don’t drink until everybody toasts

I know this rule maybe common in some other countries – nobody should drink until the first toast. However, in Malaysia (Chinese culture), we don’t really care whether you drink before or after the toast. In fact, many people usually sip their drinks before the toast simply because – they are THIRSTY!!! lol

However, in Japan, trust me, never (x9999999999 times) drink before the first toast!!! You will be the KY (Kuki yomenai, people who can’t read the air – party pooper) In Japan, the ability of reading between the lines are highly evaluated in both personal and business occasions.

And 1 more thing, Japanese usually only toast once, which is at the beginning of the party. But sometimes they may take 2nd toast depending on how the party goes wild. So if you have the culture toasting multiple times at any point of the party, keep in mind that they only toast once. (I think it would be interesting for Japanese to see foreigners trying to make multiple toasts though XD)

#2 Clink glass at a lower angle than your senior with both hands

OK, It’s time to cheers. Wait a minute. Is the person you are going to clink your glass to a senior? or younger than you? What is his position in your company / club activity?

If he is older / more powerful than you in the hierarchy of your area, then you should clink his glass at a lower angle. For example a senior in your club, your boss in the company, your friend’s parents.

Last weekend, I went to a dance party with my fellow members of the Ballroom dance club. (Yes, don’t doubt your own eyes, Shen is learning ballroom dance lol) We went to dinner together and it was soooooooooooo Japanese drinking style. I couldn’t even believe what I saw in the restaurant. I will talk about it in my another article later. Let me show you the video I took on the dinner so that you could see how they clink their glass with senior people.

Check on 0:13, 0:47, 1:00, and 1:14 to see how Japanese drink with their social manners. The last part 1:14 is very obvious that the junior trying to clink at a lower angle than his senior. Check it out 😉

The people sitting on right hand side are senior in the dance club. You can see the junior (left) try to clink their glasses at a lower angle than their seniors.


#3 Keep an eye on empty glasses. Who pours? Who receives?

Hey, you think you are done with the toast and now you can relax and enjoy your free time?


There are still jobs waiting for you – pouring drinks for others…..throughout the dinner! As I mentioned before, you have to consider the seniority system and “Soto & Uchi” relationships while pouring drinks to others.

If you are younger / less powerful in your society, you should always keep an eye on your senior’s glass.

“Senpai, you did very well in the showcase today. Good Job! I enjoyed it very much.”
“Oh ya? Well I wasn’t satisfied with my performance today though.”

“No! You were perfect! I think you were the best in today’s event!”

OK now! While your Senpai is enjoying the compliments and you noticed his glass is empty…..pour for him!! lol Congratulations! Your Senpai is now having a very good impression on you I suppose. 😉

It would be better if you can notice others’ empty glasses too but let’s be honest, you don’t have too much energy to take care of all glasses. So focusing on your senior could be a good thing.

However, who should pour? and who should receive? Plus, how to pour?? I found a good article which explained very well about the manners of pouring drinks. Check it out.

How to Pour a Drink in Japan


#4 Make your junior drink in one gulp (R18+)

OK this tip is R18+. Don’t imitate if your are under 18. lol

This may not apply to whole Japan but Japanese college students love to make their junior drink in one gulp. According to their explanations, the purpose of making their junior drink in one gulp is to teach them manners – respect seniors.

The senior really can give any kind of non-sense excuses to make a junior drink a whole bottle of beer.

“Hey! I saw you ate before us (senior)! Drink whole bottle!!!”
“OH! You didn’t say hello to me! Drink whole bottle!”

You can find more and more excuses relating to seniority issues in order to make a junior drink. Well they thought I was a junior at first, they tried to make me drink. But as the conversation develops, they realized I am actually older than them, all of a sudden, they took a bow to me and apologized for making me drink. lol and guess what, they offered to drink whole bottle to apologize.

Now you can see how deep a seniority culture is engrained in to Japanese society. If you are afraid of drinking, I suggest you come to Japan at an older age for study or working. lol


Naruhodo! OIC!

To wrap it up for you, keep these 4 tips in mind and you will be able to drink more like a Japanese.

#1 Don’t drink until everybody toasts
#2 Clink glass at a lower angle than your senior with both hands
#3 Keep an eye on empty glasses. Who pours? Who receives?
#4 Make your junior drink in one gulp (R18+)

Now is your turn. Have you experienced any drinking culture shock in Japan / with Japanese? Tell me your story in the comment section. 🙂

A Chinese Malaysian, Blogger, Vlogger on YouTube, Tour Guide in Japan. He believes 1 day his videos can bring Japan and Malaysia together. マレーシア華人、ブロガー、YouTubeクリエイター、日本にいるツアーガイドです。いつか自分の動画は日本とマレーシアを繋げる架け橋になると信じています。 Read more ABOUT him.