Traditional Japanese New Year’s Sake


Do you know about Japanese New Year’s Sake? It is called “Toso” and has been traditionally drunk in Japan during the New Year. At 4T-AMKY, Teachers and Students write about Japanese culture, food, history, many spots to visit, and other stuff. Enjoy reading and knowing about deeper Japanese culture!

Traditional Japanese New Year’s Sake


On the day of the December Kampo medicine (traditional Japanese medicine) study group, I received a packet with Toso written on it from my teacher.

When I opened it, there was a Tososan packaged in a tea filter bag inside. Looking at the cover puts me in a joyful mood.

When I peeled off the outer paper, it looked like this. It seems easy to make Toso!

How to make Toso.
What is Toso?

Toso is traditional Japanese New Year’s sake. Each family drinks the sake over the first three days of the year, wishing for a healthy and illness-free year ahead. It is made by steeping the Tososan in sake. This herbal medicine is believed to be based on the prescription of Kada, a renowned physician from ancient China during the Wei Dynasty.

Herbal ingredients of Tososan

This is the content inside the bag. It contains several types of herbal ingredients. Chimpi (dried tangerine peel) and Keihi (cinnamon) are included, giving it a delightful fragrance.

In the past, each family used to make Toso during the New Year and celebrate the start of the new year.


According to the explanation written on the Toso packet, it is said to have originated around 1,100 years ago during the reign of Emperor Saga. A person named Somei from Tang China presented Tososan as a sacred medicine to the emperor. The tradition began when the emperor soaked the Tososan in sake and drank it as a ceremonial drink after a ritual in the first three days of the New Year. Over time, this practice spread among the people as a New Year’s ritual to ward off evil spirits and diseases, welcoming a year of happiness.

On New Year’s Day

Tonight (12/31), I will steep this Tososan in sake, and tomorrow morning, I will add Mirin (sweet cooking sake) and drink. I am going to enjoy the tradition passed down through the ages and pray for a peaceful year for people around the world.