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おとそ Otoso Otoso

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Otoso is Sake with added medicinal herbs to be drunk on New Years Day to ward off sickness for the entire year ahead and to wish for long happy life. As an old saying goes; “When one person drinks it, none of his family falls sick. When one family drinks it, none of the people in a whole village falls sick”, Otoso was initially made and taken in order to protect oneself from the cold. It later became an essential drink to celebrate the New Year.
First, toso mixture is prepared by mixing several herbs including Sanshou (Japanese pepper), Kikyou (balloonflower) and Heihi (cassis bark). Then the toso mixture is steeped with sake and mirin (sweetened sake).  Otoso is drunk using a special set of three different sizes of sake cups: small, medium and large. It is customary for the younger people to drink it before the elders, though this varies by region. This custom originated in China where younger people would test it first for poison.  Starting from the end of Meiji Period to the beginning of Showa Period, in some regions, the head of the family was the first to drink the Otoso which then became the custom.
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