How to drink masuzake (sake) | the fill-to-overflowing mokkiri method
At izakaya (Japanese-style pubs) that serve nihonshu (sake), you may encounter masuzake, a traditional style of enjoying sake. Let’s take a look at some techniques for beginners to enjoy this aesthetic and delicious way to drink sake.
Table of Contents
Pour sake until it overflows into the masu
At venues that serve sake, various brands of sake are often served in a glass placed into a wooden box called a masu, as pictured here. Sometimes, a ceramic vessel may be used under the glass, instead of a masu. This style of pouring sake to the brim, and intentionally letting it overflow, is called mokkiri.
First, drink from the glass
In the mokkiri style, the glass will be filled as far as surface tension will allow. Some people prefer to leave the glass in place, and bend down to take a sip. But, if you can, it’s much more elegant to lift the glass, don’t you think?
Slowly and carefully lift the glass, creating a bit of space in the masu. Now, tilt your glass just a little, letting some of the sake pour into the masu below, before taking a sip. This will prevent spilling any sake.
Pour the excess sake from the masu into your glass
First, finish the sake in your glass, then pour the remaining sake from the masu into your glass. Alternatively, it’s perfectly acceptable to drink the remaining sake directly from the masu.
Drink the remaining sake from your glass
Enjoy the remaining sake that has been poured into your glass. It’s considered proper etiquette for ladies to place a hand on the bottom of their glass. Gentlemen may hold their glass with one hand, but in a formal situation, such as when receiving a drink from a superior, it’s proper manners to hold the glass with both hands.
Try to drink from middle of the masu
When drinking masuzake from the masu, instead of the corner, try to drink from the middle. Placing your lip along the edge will prevent spilling. However, if this is difficult, of course, you may also drink from the corner. Another stylish way to enjoy masuzake is to place a bit of salt on the corner, and taste the salt as you drink.
Basic sakaba (pub) knowledge
Nihonshu (the more specific word for Japanese sake) is often enjoyed at izakaya (traditional Japanese-style pubs), restaurants serving Japanese cuisine, or even at sake bars. If you have the opportunity, visiting a sake brewery and tasting the sake at its place of production is an excellent way to deepen your knowledge. Sake breweries can be found throughout all of Japan. Regional differences, such as water and climate characteristics, impart unique flavors to the local sake.
What is kaku-uchi?
Many sake brewers and sake shops have a corner designated as a drinking area, where visitors can have a glass or two of sake while standing. This system, called kaku-uchi, is an excellent way to casually enjoy sake. In recent years, the word kaku-uchi has also come to be used in a broader sense outside of sake shops, such as drinking at tachinomi izakaya (standing pubs).
Enjoy interaction with the regulars
Standing bars, such as at kaku-uchi establishments, provide the opportunity to casually speak with other customers. This is a wonderful way to enhance your enjoyment of sake, while perhaps learning more, for example, by asking a regular customer what sort of food they pair with sake. The shop staff are also always happy to share their knowledge with you!
* The published information is current as of October 2022. Prices and other details are subject to change.
This sake shop traces its roots to a liquor store with a drinking space that was established in 1596, some 420 years ago, near what is now the Kanda Bridge. As Tokyo’s oldest liquor store, it is thought that Japan’s heritage of izakaya (traditional-style pubs) is connected to Toshimaya Honten.