As well as the several other kinds of Japanese alcoholic drinks I seem to have found two words which both mean the drink known in the west as "saké".

Now I know 酒{さけ} can be used for many kinds of alcohol in Japan. I thought the Japanese word for what us westerners call "sake" was 日本酒{にほんしゅ}.

But just now another traveller came home to the hostel with some Japanese alcohol. One had the label 清酒{せいしゅ}, so I looked it up, expecting it to be for a different Japanese alcohol I didn't know about before.

But the definitions on the English Wiktionary and WWWJDIC seem to be the same for both words. Is there a difference? Is one a special kind of saké? Or is one word more generic or more old fashioned etc?

1 Answer 1


There is a clear difference (no pun intended) between 日本酒 and 清酒. The clue is in the kanji 「清」 = "clear".

Technically speaking, 清酒 is one of the two main types of 日本酒 --- 1) 清酒 and 2) にごり[酒]{ざけ}. The former is refined and colorless and the latter, unrefined and cloudy.

Informally, however, quite a few native speakers use 日本酒 and 清酒 fairly interchangeably.

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