Rice Wine Drinking Parties

In Heian times, Japanese cuisine had not become as spectacular as it is today. Though there was already emphasis on presentation and simplicity, Heian aristocrats had not yet developed the level of cuisine they would in the future, as their neighbors, the Chinese, had already done.

However, Heian people DID know how to drink. Rice wine, or as we know it, sake, was the potable of choice, and each would have his glass filled according to stature and rank.

“His Majesty summoned the officials of ceremonial and bade them bring fruit, sake, and food, saying, ‘Make everyone drunk.’ And truly the courtiers got drunk. They exchanged words with the ladies behind the screen, and everyone found each other quite fascinating.” Sake can do that.

What makes these Heian parties resemble modern times is the post-imbibement hypocrisy. Though pretty much everyone liked to tipple, they still gossiped about and judged others. “Oh I may indulge once in a while, but Lady Sarashina was quite sauced at the Emperor’s last banquet.” How close we are to Heian times already!

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3 Comments

Filed under Emperor, sake, Shonagon

3 responses to “Rice Wine Drinking Parties

  1. Bel

    Hi,
    May I ask whether the quotations that you have used in this article are based on historical sources?
    For example:
    “His Majesty summoned the officials of ceremonial and bade them bring fruit, sake, and food, saying, ‘Make everyone drunk.’ And truly the courtiers got drunk. They exchanged words with the ladies behind the screen, and everyone found each other quite fascinating.”
    Was this recorded by someone as an ancient source at the time, or is it simply an example you have come up with?
    Thank you!

    • jcg03002

      Yes, it is. This is a direct passage from “The Pillow Book” by Sei Shonagon. It’s a wonderful read! I highly recommend it, since it’s the main inspiration and source for this blog.

      • Bel

        Thank you very much, I think I’ll try to find this source.
        I’m doing an assignment on food and drink in Heian Japan.
        It’s very interesting!

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