Sake, the fermented rice wine virtually synonymous with Japan’s heritage of graceful hospitality, is present at every ceremony, celebration and gathering throughout the year. October, however, marks the start of the rice harvest and the beginning of the sake-brewing season -- a cause for celebration even in ancient times. Thirty-five years ago, sake industry leaders designated Oct. 1 “Nihonshu no Hi” or “National Sake Day,” giving devotees one more reason to raise a glass.

Sake dates back to the third century, created by women in Shinto shrines for sacred rituals. Women working in teahouses near the shrines also began serving sake to travelers, often while playing instruments and dancing, considered to be the beginning of the geisha tradition.

Even today, sake is also among the most treasured of the geisha beauty secrets — it is used in the bath and on the face to smooth and perfect their porcelain skin. When an apprentice geisha takes up residence in the home where she will complete her training, she and her sisters perform a symbolic ritual called San San Kudo — three sips of sake from three cups that symbolize heaven, earth and humankind.  The ritual extends beyond the geisha to represent the auspicious beginning of new and special relationships of every kind – from weddings to business partnerships.

While on our travels, we were struck by the incredible beauty of sake glasses made by expert artisans in Shizuoka near Mt. Fuji. More than just attractive vessels worthy of the finest sakes, they combine three cherished forms of Japanese craftsmanship — handmade washi paper (set at the base of the glass); gold-leafing and urushi lacquering on the exterior. The expertise makes each one a piece of art, a perfect choice to give as a gift or keep for generations in your own family.

Custom dictates that one must never pour their own sake but by the same measure, others see that no one’s glass is allowed to remain unfilled in a never-ending cycle of camaraderie and good cheer.
It is in that festive spirit that we offer these glasses to our friends, now available as curated gifts on Kanpai! (Cheers!)

Please note that because each glass is made by hand, the washi patterns will vary. Each set contains one red and one black food-safe lacquered exterior.

To purchase, click here.




Victoria Tsai
Chief Treasure Hunter

published October 2013

Travel, Kyoto
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Photo 1: Gold leafing is just one of several steps in the month-long process to make these special sake glasses. Photo by Nami Onodera

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