The more I explore shochu, the more interesting facets I discover. I wish I could share all of them in real time, but as you’ve probably noticed I’m not able to spend as much time on updating Kampai.US as I have been in the past. Life and work intrude and I spend far more of my time talking with people about shochu than writing about it. That said, I’ll keep it up and I’ve invited a few guest writers who hopefully will start to contribute additional content. But this post wasn’t meant to be an apology. Rather, this is about one of those facets of shochu culture that I love.
When giving shochu as a gift, it is customary to give the recipient two bottles. As you are likely aware, Japanese people are extremely polite. Their culture demands it, but this politeness is also deeply rooted in their hearts and minds. So when you give a gift of something consumable, they are immediately inclined to share it with you since you were kind enough to give it to them. Give them two bottles and you’ll be offered a drink in thanks. Then they still have the second bottle to enjoy at their leisure without feeling compelled share with you.
Sake shop owners, attuned to this reality, long ago developed an elegant solution using twine to tie the two bottles together and allow for an easy carrying handle between the bottle necks. Plastic twine is usually used today in favor of natural fiber rope, but the effect is similar. The two bottles, tied together at top and bottom, present a unique image. This is particularly useful since the traditional bottle size is 1.8 liters rather than our more usual 750ml size. Two of these “iishobin” are equal to about a gallon of milk of liquid, but encased in glass – obviously a heavy gift so the handle is a welcome solution to carrying the package to your recipient.
The bottles above were packaged for a wedding where both bottles were enjoyed by the guests. I guess sometimes the two bottle solution isn’t perfect.