What is Kanpai?

Kanpai is the Japanese way of toasting. It literally means “to drink up sake from one’s cup.

It’s used much like in western society, at the beginning of a celebration. Most often it signals the start of the party between friends/family.


It can also be a bit more formal, where a designated person delivers a short speech before everyone clinks glasses. 

It’s actually derived from western culture, introduced sometime in the mid-19th century.

Some believe originally the Japanese held their sake cups up high and then everyone drank at the same time.

Either way, you’ll hear “kanpai!” at izakaya across Japan — sometimes loud and boisterous too. The start of a good time.

Some things aren’t quite so different from other cultures around the world, are they? The humble toast found its way into Japanese culture.

TOUR: Food & Cultural Tour – The Best of Izakaya

For a place to test out your kanpai skills — enjoy a classic Japanese experience at selected Izakaya locations. Taste fresh local food and drinks as you journey through Tokyo’s busiest area in Shinjuku.


  • Taste more than 7 mouth-watering Japanese food samplings, enough for a full dinner meal, served from highly selected restaurants
  • Enjoy unique views of Tokyo’s neon town, the Kabukicho and Shinjuku areas and discover hidden gems with a local guide
  • Learn the history of Shinjuku and Japanese culture as you visit historically preserved places
  • Try great quality Japanese sake that is not available in your home country

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By the middle ages, people believed that there was a demon in alcohol, so people would be possessed by an evil spirit if they drink alcohol directly. In order to get rid of the evil spirits before drinking, people started to make a sound by clinking 2 glasses together to exorcise evil spirits. Why would the sound of 2 glasses clinked together help to get rid of evil spirits? People believed the sound of “Ting!” by clinking 2 glasses would scare away the evil spirits. —Guideable

Drinking in Japan can be a serious affair. In a culture bound by many social protocols, tearing them down together builds unity and cohesion. As the drinks flow, things often take a turn for the rowdy. You may look bad if you hold back. Many relationships, both business and personal, are forged by getting falling-down drunk together and singing terrible karaoke. —TripSavvy

First, it’s customary to refrain from drinking until everyone, especially those at the head table, are seated. A set menu is likely provided and drinks may be unlimited for the period arranged between the organizer and the venue. Wait staff will typically pour the first drink – usually beer – everyone stands, and the designated toaster will give a small speech ending with “Kanpai!” Only then will those assembled at these occasions partake in the food and drink at hand. —SakeTimes

How do you drink sake? Hold the cup close to your face and take in the aroma. Take a small sip, and let it linger in your mouth before you swallow it. If you wish to warm your sake, simply place the tokkuri in a pan of boiling water. About 40-45 degrees Celsius is a good temperature to enjoy this drink. —SakeSocial