Sake is often consumed as part of Shinto purification rituals (compare with the use of grape wine in the Christian Eucharist). During World War II, kamikaze pilots drank sake prior to carrying out their missions.

In a ceremony called kagami biraki, wooden casks of sake are opened with mallets during Shinto festivals, weddings, store openings, sports and election victories, and other celebrations. This sake, called iwai-zake (“celebration sake”), is served freely to all to spread good fortune.

On the New Year many Japanese people drink a special sake called toso. Toso is a sort of iwai-zake made by soaking tososan, a Chinese powdered medicine, overnight in sake. Even children sip a portion. In some regions, the first sipping of toso is taken in order of age from younger to older.