11

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?

  • While not identical, this question and its answers might be of interest to you... – Dave Aug 9 '11 at 4:31
  • 1
    @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
9

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.

  • 1
    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
  • 2
    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
-2

As mentioned above, all alcohol in Japan is 酒 (sake). When it is completely unambiguous, that word is sufficient to convey which form of alcohol you desire.

If you go into a London pub and say, "Give me a drink," you will likely get a pint of bitter. If you go into an inn in Dublin, you may just as likely get a shot of whisky. If you want to be unambiguous, you specify what you want.

For the record, in decades of visiting and living in Japan, I have never heard anybody order "sake" in a restaurant or pub. On the other hand, "sake" is often used to represent all alcohol, as in a store: "酒はどこですか。", or "Where is your alcohol?"

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.