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Our resident sake expert, Iohn Gauntner, from the archives writes: Several municipalities and one prefecture have put into effect actual legal ordinances dictating that if you say kampai! it must be with sake (or in one case, shochu, Japan’s indigenous distilled beverage).
The municipalities are: Kyoto (the first to do so!), Hakusan in Ishikawa Prefecture, Minami Aizu in Fukushima Prefecture, Higashi Hiroshima, wherein sits the brewing town of Saijo, the whole of Saga Prefecture, the whole of Kagoshima Prefecture (for shochu, not sake!), and Nishinomiya in Hyogo.
All are prominent sake-brewing regions. On top of that, two small villages in Hyogo known for growing some of the best Yamada Nishiki in the country have also enacted such ordinances. Other places are expected to follow.
Kyoto, where it all started, explained that the purpose was to spread sake and its culture, and that no fines or strong-arm enforcement would occur. It has been all too common over the decades in Japan to start with a beer for the initial kampai or call of “cheers,” and then move on to sake. Hopefully, these ordinances will playfully but effectively move people back to toasting with Japan’s gem of gems, sake. (and shochu in Kagoshima!).
John Ashburne adds: This legislation was enacted four years ago, but we decided to publish it from the archives because it is so delightfully bonkers. Er, we mean ‘important’. Foodies Go Local’s crack investigative team (me) will conduct detailed research (Google it) to ascertain if the law still applies, and how many beer-swilling bohos have been sent to the clink for toasting with brown fizzy stuff, rather than the clearly superior Japanese sake. Oh, and shochu in Kagoshima.
By the way, I checked to see if John Gauntner wrote this on April 1st. He didn’t. And IMHO it isn’t the craziest piece of legislation ever to be put on to the books. Look at Prime Minister Abe’s attempts to abandon Article 9. He must be drunk.
Update: Yes, it seems the kampai statute is still on the books. Every last Japanese person I’ve mentioned it to seems to think I have had a few glasses of sake too many. In case you also have difficulty in persuading Nihonjin friends that it’s true, here’s a link to the Kyoto City Government official homepage, and specifically page 150907, posted on August 7th, 2015, detailing the ordinance.
Update at 23rd August. Peter Durfee writes: “The law linked there says little more than “the city government, sake brewers, and citizens shall endeavor to promote the brewers’ products.” If memory serves, there were rules passed in connection with this law that required that sake be served and used for the kanpai at city-funded functions. It has no legal teeth beyond this, though”. Thanks Peter!