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Was nihonshu (what English refers to as "sake") always called nihonshu, or was it only called that once western alcoholic beverages were introduced to Japan?

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While not identical, this question and its answers might be of interest to you... – Dave Aug 9 '11 at 4:31
@Dave: I guess finding related questions is difficult if one question uses romaji and the other doesn't! – Andrew Grimm Aug 9 '11 at 11:58
finding related questions is not always easy (the search function in SO is also not the best). It's always a good idea to use kana or kanji when searching for Japanese words (they are the default choice for questions). – Dave Aug 9 '11 at 13:35
up vote 9 down vote accepted

The 日本国語大辞典's earliest cite for 日本酒 (nihonshu) is 1886, in Tsubouchi Shoyo's 内地雑居 未来之夢, which is to judge from the title a book about foreigners in Japan. I'd say the chances are good that 日本酒 (nihonshu) is a recent coinage, and before that, the drink was simply called 酒 (sake).

Incidentally, again according to the 日本国語大辞典, the word 葡萄酒 (budōshu) for "[grape] wine" has been around for at least 500 years.

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This might be a separate question, but what was it called before it was called nihonshu? – Andrew Grimm Aug 8 '11 at 14:08
@Andrew Most likely, "sake". – user458 Aug 8 '11 at 14:36
Yeah, "sake" was the term before that, and it was apparently already in the language when people started writing it down. e.g. Manyoshu poem 338 is "験無物乎不念者一坏乃濁酒乎可飲有良師" (sirusi naki/ mono wo omohazu ha/ hitotuki no/ nigoreru sake wo/ nomu beku aru rashi), roughly "Don't sweat the small stuff; have a cup of nigorizake instead." – Matt Aug 8 '11 at 23:09
Does sake-ya refer to the old meaning of sake, or the new meaning? – Andrew Grimm Aug 8 '11 at 23:17
@Matt: what theory is correct? He asks "which of A or B is it"? – Axioplase Aug 9 '11 at 1:35

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