Masu : SAKETIMES GLOSSARY


Masu (noun)
[mɑsu]
Japanese characters: 枡 (枡: square-shaped device for measuring volume; square cell on a grid)

1. How Sake Measures Up
Masu is a square, traditionally wooden (Japanese Cedar or Cypress) vessel now most commonly used for, and associated with, drinking sake. However it’s roots are actually as a measurement tool, primarily for rice, but also used for things like salt, wheat, and oil. Rumor has it that the association with drinking sake developed during the Edo period, when the custom of trying sake directly from masu after measuring and buying became the prototype for today’s izakaya staple.

The standard volume for a masu is 180ml, or 1 go (合).

2. You’re Probably Doing it Wrong
While most people tend to gravitate toward one of the corners of the box when drinking from a masu, the “proper” way to sip sake is by placing four fingers of right hand on the underside of the masu, then using your thumb to stabilize against the upper edge while sipping from the flat side of the box. Some people like to place a small amount of salt on the corner of masu, going back and forth between salt and sake.

Currently, there is “Mokkiri-sake” which place the glass inside the masu, then pour sake until overflows from the glass. You will see Izakaya’s hospitality by the amount of overflows.

3. Sake Overflow
A common association between sake and drinking from a masu is what is often referred to as mokkiri sake, when the service person places a glass inside of the masu and intentionally overflows it, hence filling the masu to the brim as well.

Although common, it remains a divisive service method. While a good deal of restaurant or bar patrons enjoy the show, many struggle to then actually drink the sake without making a mess of things. Also, while the presentation is designed to communicate the “extra” value that the customer is receiving, it is used deceptively on occasion, as well. The sake may appear to be in abundance, but the actual volume is often vague, or in some cases, less than service standards.

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