When I was in Okinawa drinking sake I asked my host what the Japanese word for the sake cup was and was told:


Then today I went to the Nezu Museum in Tokyo which currently has a collection of sake utensils on display. Every single cup there bore the label:

さかづき in the rubi and either 盃 or 酒盃 for the kanji.

So I was originally going to ask what the difference is between おちょこ and さかづき but on looking up the latter for the right kanji to use in this question I was bombarded with these variants:

杯(P); 盃; 坏; 巵; 卮; 盞; 觚; 觴; 酒盃(iK) 【さかずき(P); さかづき; うき(盞)】

So it seems that the exhibit was using neither the preferred/popular kanji nor the preferred/popular pronunciation!

What am I to make of all this? Which word should I use for sake cup? Why would the museum go with an uncommon variant? Are there nuances?

  • 1
    ず and づ have merged in most dialects. They used to be distinguished, though.
    – user1478
    Apr 23 '14 at 21:39
  • @snailboat: Of course I knew this but forgot about it when doing this question \-: Apr 24 '14 at 0:13
  • Excuse me but what does "iK" stand for? (and... I don't understand 「are their nuances」part... )
    – user1016
    Apr 24 '14 at 7:09
  • @Chocolate: I don't know, I'm only copying and pasting what I find in WWWJDIC. I suppose it's something like "irregular kanji", "infrequent kanji", or "informal kanji". Apr 24 '14 at 10:26
  • 2
    "iK word containing irregular kanji usage"
    – user1478
    Apr 24 '14 at 12:08

I think さかずき normally refers to something that looks like this: さかずき
and can also be used as a general term for sake cup, including おちょこ:enter image description here
I think さかづき is probably an archaic way of spelling it in hiragana(or katakana?). Nowadays we normally spell it as さかずき. As for 杯 and 盃... both look okay to me, though I think I learned it as 杯 at school... some people say 盃 is a 俗字(informal variant?) for 杯 but I'm not sure.


Well, to start off, お猪口 is the typical cup you see when sake is served hot. It looks kind of like a ceramic shot glass, just with straighter sides and a little shorter.

さかずき are flatter and disc-like. As for how to write it, my dictionary confirms the preferences listed in EDICT: 杯 is listed first, followed by 盃. Unless I go to the 国語辞典 within the application, it leaves off the other two. Given the fact that the latter is a 人名用 and the former is 常用, that would appear to indicate that 杯 is the way to go, however Wikipedia (and, in fact, the displays you've been reading) appear to prefer 盃.

  • At least a couple of the 盃 looked very much like the short stubby cylinder shaped お猪口 but still were labelled 盃. Photography wasn't allowed and I couldn't find pictures of the exhibition online unfortunately. Apr 22 '14 at 14:43
  • If 杯 is 常用 and 盃 is 人名用, wouldn't you want to go with the 常用 one, i.e. 杯?
    – senshin
    Apr 23 '14 at 8:14
  • @senshin: You're right. I thought I'd put that in, but I guess my IME got confused from going back and forth so much. Fixed.
    – Kaji
    Apr 23 '14 at 14:17
  • 1
    Wikipedia is using 盃... ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%9B%83
    – user1016
    Apr 23 '14 at 16:23
  • 1
    @Chocolate I think that might just be because is a disambiguation page for things like ~杯【はい】 because it has alternate meanings, while 盃 is unambiguous, so they picked 盃 for the article title.
    – senshin
    Apr 23 '14 at 22:17

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