Last week’s post was about Matsumoto (まつもと / 松本), so this week I need to start with と (to). A big thank you to Mark Venning who suggested Totoro (the main character from My Neighbor Totoro (となりのトトロ /Tonari no Totoro), tonkatsu (豚カツ / a pork cutlet dish), Tokyo (東京), Tottori (鳥取県) and Toto (TOTO株式会社 / Tōtō Kabushiki-gaisha - the lavatory manufacturers), and to my colleague, Susan, who suggested tokkuri (徳利 / sake flask) and togarashi (七味唐辛子 / shichimi tōgarashi - seven flavour chilli pepper used in ramen and other dishes) as I was leaving the office last night. In the end, I decided to write about…
Tokkuri (とっくり / 徳利)
“Tokkuri” is not a word I knew until yesterday, but it is a very familiar object:
A tokkuri is a sake flask, and it usually comes as part of a sake set with drinking cups. Sake cups come in different varieties – the basic three types are: sakazuki (さかずき / flat saucer-like cup), ochoko (お猪口 / small cylindrical cup), and masu (枡 / wooden box cup). Often, if you buy a sake set, it will come with a tokkuri and a set of ochoko, like this:
Tokkuri are bottle-shaped, usually with a narrow neck but, as you can see in the first picture, they come in lots of different shapes, sizes and designs. Here’s a great guide to the different types of tokkuri:
Traditionally, when heating sake, the sake-filled tokkuri is placed in a pan of hot water (that’s a better idea than microwaving sake – never microwave sake to heat it up!). The narrow neck of the tokkuri prevents the heat from escaping, and the sake is warmed naturally.
Tokkuri and sake sets make excellent souvenirs of Japan. I received a really interesting one as a gift once:
I’ve also seen modern designs on sake sets – even Hello Kitty has been used:
If I could find a Rilakkuma one I would definitely buy it!
If you’re looking for a tokkuri or sake set as a souvenir in Japan, I would recommend looking in department stores, and also in stores such as Tokyu Hands and Loft. You will be able to find reasonably priced sets there. If your budget doesn’t stretch to that, you can even find tokkuri in 100 Yen stores like Daiso. If you’re visiting shrines and temples you will often find touristy shops nearby, and these local shops can be the best places to find unique designs and more authentic gifts from Japan. It’s also nice to support small, independent shops.
Tokkuri can be really beautiful and well designed, whether they’re traditional or modern in style. I wish I had my own collection to share with you, but I don’t, so instead I’ve found a few photos with the help of Mr Google (all sources are below the images)…