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Sake-Related Traditions of Shoryudo

Ishikawa Prefecture

Presenting “Tomoshiraga”

Generally, “tomoshiraga (both mates having gray hair)” is a wedding gift made of hemp yarn which is combined together to look like gray hair, but in Ishikawa Prefecture, it also refers to celebratory sake presented at a wedding ceremony.

It is presented with a gorgeous “mizuhiki (Japanese paper string ornament),” a traditional handicraft of Kaga Area, to wish couples long life together until they come to have gray hair. Various sake manufacturers produce this wedding gift sake often with gold foil in it, another local specialty of Kaga Area.



In the vicinity of Kanazawa City, there is a marriage related custom. When a man and woman have decided to get married, the man’s parents visit the woman’s parents with issho (Japanese liquid measure of 1800 cc) of sake and surume (dried cuttlefish) to officially ask for an approval for the marriage.

This custom is called “tamotozake (sleeve sake)” or “kimezake (sake of decision).” The man’s parents visit the woman’s parents with the sake in the kimono sleeve (tamoto), and when they agree on the marriage, the sake is taken out of the sleeve to celebrate the occasion.

“Tomoshiraga” is presented of course. The sake is offered with a wish that they will be in a family relationship for the rest of their life (“issho,” or entire life).



Sake made of snow meltwater flowing down from Hakusan Mountains is called “Kikusake of Kaga” which has been highly valued for many centuries as pure sake produced with fine water. It is also listed in “Honchoshokkan,” a guidebook of dietary medicines complied in Edo Period.

“Hakusan Kikusake” is the only sake brand officially recognized by the WTO’s TRIPS Agreement .

Toyama Prefecture

Yakudoshi Kitosai
(Ritual for shaking off bad luck by releasing a carp to a river)

In Tonami City, citizens continue to observe a ritual in which men and women in their critical age (unlucky year) release a carp given sacred sake to a river for wishing their good luck and long life.

The ritual supposedly dates back to the end of Edo Period. In a ceremony of transferring a Shinto shrine in this area (Kanaya Shinmei Shrine), a carp used in the ceremony was still alive after many hours when the event was over. The people tried to share in that vitality by making the fish drink the sacred sake offered to gods to entrust the fish with their bad luck and releasing it to Shogawa River.

Fukui Prefecture

Sake Manju

“Sake manju” or steam bun is made of malted rice and sticky rice by fermenting those ingredients. In Mikuni Town, “sake manju” is written in Chinese characters meaning “longevity.”

Mikuni Town in Edo Period prospered as a port of call for Kitamaebune fleet, or merchant ships. Those ships brought many goods to the ports of call, and the recipe of “sake manju” was one of them.

It was highly valued as an item of lucky charm and served in large quantities at weddings, festivals or building commencement ceremonies by prosperous merchants. Today, each “sake manju” shop still makes it with its original recipe and sake rice, and the local people love it and serve it at important events in their life.

Gifu Prefecture

Sakegai No Gishiki (ritual of buying sake)

In Kawabe Town, citizens perform an interesting traditional ritual wherein Haiou (messenger) sent by God visits a brewery to buy sake.

Early in the morning, a strong man wearing a mask of Haiou and having a sansho (5.4 l) sake bottle leaves Tabekoten Shrine in town center and visits a local brewery, Hakusen Shuzo.

Entering the shop, Haiou pays 12 mon (old Japanese currency) demanding, “give me sake,” but the shop owner refuses to sell it saying, “I cannot because it is one mon short.” Haiou insists sake stating “it can’t be true, count the money once again,” so the owner fills the bottle about 80%. Then, Haiou sticks his finger into the bottle and demands more sake saying, “my finger isn’t wet, so you have to put some more.” It is an amusing pantomime ritual performed by Haiou and the shop owner over buying and selling sake.


“Medeta” song

No one can leave his seat until the entire group sings a celebratory song called “Medeta.” That is a custom that is still observed today at parties held in Hida Takayama Region. Until “Medeta” begins to be played, participants enjoy the food at their seats, but once the “Medeta” singing is over, they are free to start drinking with people they like. This song with melodies unique to the Hida Region originates with a song sung by workers at timber workshop “Minato” when they began drinking sake together.


Oiwai (celebration)

In the Hida Region, local people observe the custom of taking local sake in nisho (3.6 l) or sansho (5.4 l) measures with a noshi gift ornament for celebrations such as new building commencement and wedding, as well as year-end / mid-summer greetings.

Nagano Prefecture

Nagano Ooka Dosojin Festival

Long ago, when boys in the village turned 15 years of age, they took sake which their parents bought for them and joined in decorating Dosojin (God of Doso or roadside).

It is an initiation ceremony for young men to be adults.

Today, the decorating ceremony is performed on January the 7th every year. They remove the old covering on the stone

monument of Dosojin, and decorate it with sacred straw ropes used as a new year ornament collected from the households in the village. They then pray to God to protect the village from evil spirits and diseases for the coming year.

They also prepare a barrel for sacred sake, a set of three sake cups and fish (sea bream) to be offered to God.



A toasting ceremony performed at a feast coupled with chanting of a song. Hokushinryu is also called Matsushiroryu, a superbly high-class ceremony which has been handed down in Matsushiro Town, a castle town of Sanada Family yielding 100,000 koku (old Japanese unit of volume) of rice annually in Edo Period. The ceremony was passed on originally from Sanada Family to Shimada Family specializing in the art of Noh in the town.

The ceremony is performed occasionally in the middle or toward the end of a feast whether it is congratulatory or condolatory. Generally, the participants toast in appreciation for the host or those who have worked hard for the occasion, and a song is performed while they enjoy sake.

When a new governor was assigned to Nagano Prefecture after the prefectural reform implemented in the beginning of the Meiji Period, he was welcomed with a “toast for joy” by the people in Matsushiro Town. He liked it so much that this toasting ceremony came to be regularly performed at feasts attended by the governor.

Shizuoka Prefecture

Kawazu no Tori-shojin, Sake-shojin
(abstinence from poultry and sake in Kawazu Region)

In Kawazu Town, Kamo County, the citizens observe a tradition of abstaining from sake, poultry and eggs between the 18th and 23rd of December .

A fairy tale has it that Sugihokowake no Mikoto, the deity enshrined at Kinomiya Shrine in Kawazu , was drunk one day and encircled by fire to be almost burned to death, and then a number of birds came and saved his life. The shrine performs the sake withholding festival on December the 17th and the sake releasing festival on the 24th, during which period, even a heavy drinker abstains from drinking sake.

Based on the belief that those who violate the abstinence would suffer a fire disaster, even local bars are closed during that period. Tourists are not obligated to keep this tradition, but they are recommended to follow the local custom if they can.