Pouring Etiquette

At an enkai, as at most gatherings, the drinking can't begin until the kampai (the toast). Once the cue has been given, people will start popping beer bottles and passing around glasses. It is customary to make sure everyone around you has a glass (or plate or bowl) before accepting one yourself.

Doozo and Doomo

It is proper etiquette to hold the glass while someone is pouring for you. The person pouring will say Doozo, and you answer back Doomo. Once your glass has been filled to its frothy brim, you must then take the beer bottle from the pourer and say Doozo. She or he will in turn answer back Doomo. Designated drivers will observe the same etiquette while pouring their uuron-cha (“oolong tea”) and juusu (“juice”).

Once everyone's glass has been filled, someone will give a short speech stating the purpose of the enkai, thanking the organizers, and congratulating the staff on a job well done. Depending on the occasion, he or she may also bid farewell to a beloved colleague or make some other personal address. Then another person, previously designated as the official “cheers” leader, will give a short toast and shout out Kampai! Before throwing your drink down the hatch, join with the others by calling out Kampai! This formulaic expression means “bottoms up,” which is why you will see many people drain their glasses. If you don't drain your glass, someone will soon be at your elbow saying Doozo again. Respond to this by taking a tiny sip from your glass, and then holding it out, saying Doomo.

When You Have Had Enough

If you are working in Japan, this enkai may be held partially in your honor, so your glass is likely to be filled several times over. It is difficult to gauge how much you are drinking in these situations and you may soon find you have had enough. People will want to welcome you by pouring beer into your glass, however, so it is best to humor them by taking tiny sips before humbly receiving more.

Pouring for yourself is taboo at an enkai, but you can hint strongly that you would like something to drink by filling the glass of someone else. The person you are pouring for will inevitably notice that your own glass is empty and ask you what you are drinking. This is a good opportunity for you to change beverages if you feel you have had enough alcohol.

Making the Rounds

After a while, you will want to stretch your legs a bit. This is a perfect time to circle the table with a bottle of beer, pouring for each person around the table: Doozo; Doomo. Make sure to note what is in each person's glass, just in case it is not beer. Tea, juice, and nihon-shu are also popular enkai drinks, and you should offer to pour whatever the person is already drinking.

Chatting briefly with each person is perfectly acceptable as you make your rounds. When you are ready to move on, just grab another bottle from the table and continue circling around until you have poured for each member of the party. This is a very humble act, and will get your stint in the Japanese work force off to a good start.

Make sure to circle around in back of people rather than passing in front of them as you make your way around the table pouring beer. Use both hands: Whether you're pouring juice or beer, have one hand supporting the bottom of the bottle while the other tilts the opening toward the glass.

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