What is Toso? Understanding Spiced Sake Traditions

Toso images

Toso is an ancient Japanese tradition of toasting the New Year with spiced sake.

It is a way to honor the gods and bring luck and prosperity to the coming year.

Toso has been a part of Japanese culture for centuries, and it is still practiced today.

The sake is spiced with various herbs and roots that are believed to have medicinal properties.

Understanding the history and tradition of such toso will help you enjoy it even more.

What is toso?

Toso is an auspicious sake and convention to drink at New Year's to ward off evil spirits for the year and to wish for longevity.

There are several slightly different theories on the origin of the word "toso".

  • The word "so" means to slaughter evil spirits.
  • It means to slaughter evil spirits and revive their souls.

It is a medicinal drink invented by Hua Tuo during the Later Han Dynasty in China.

It is said to have been introduced to Japan during the reign of Emperor Saga in the early Heian period.


Tososan, which is a combination of several kinds of medicinal herbs, is mixed with

  • Red wine
  • Japanese sake
  • Mirin

and other ingredients.

It is said to be effective in treating stomach ailments and early colds, depending on the person.

Prescriptions differ according to time, region, etc.

As with Chinese herbology, it is dangerous to apply them to others, even if they have been effective for one person's weak stomach or cold.

It is a good idea to ask someone who has expertise in formulating crude drug and tososan whether you should drink it.

Alternatively, it is safe to reduce the prescription amount to an edible level and dilute it.


Toso is usually served with an assortment of drinking vessels called tosoki (toso equipment).

The tosoki consists of the following items:

  • A sake bottle (choshi) to hold the tososan, sake, and mirin
  • A rice wine cup into which the toso is poured
  • A rice wine cup stand on which the stacked sake cups are placed
  • A tray on which these are placed

There are also various types of tosoki as follows.

  • Lacquer ware
  • Ceramic
  • Glass

Three types of sake cups (small, medium, and large) are used for drinking.

On the morning of New Year's Day, people drink from youngest to oldest.

History of Toso Sake

The custom of drinking toso during the New Year can be traced back to the Tang Dynasty in China.

However, it does not seem to be a custom in present-day China. 

In Japan, it is known from the Heian period.

In the imperial court, there was a rule to drink one sake for each of the following.

  • First offering: Toso
  • Second offering: Biyakusan
  • Third offering: Toshosan

The nobles used either toso or biyakusan.

  • Ashikaga shogunateBiyakusan
  • Tokugawa shogunateToso

After that, each used their own.

This ritual eventually spread to the common people,

Japanese male image

In return for payment for medicine

And doctors began to distribute tososan.

Even today, it is still customary for pharmacies to give out tososan as a year-end gift.

When the end of the year approaches, some pharmacies and drugstores sell tososan in tea bag form, or it may be attached to mirin.

The process is as follows.

  1. Pour sake or mirin into a cup or other container.
  2. Soak the bagged tososan on New Year's Eve.
  3. On New Year's Day, drink the tososan.
Post a Comment (0)
Previous Post Next Post