What is “sake” in Japan?

Perhaps in your country, there might be “sake” as a Japanese-taste alcohol on the menu. All you need to do for ordering is just telling a waiter “1 sake, please.” However, if you told “Sake please” in Japan, it will confuse a waiter. Then, how to order Sake? We will clarify the way and what gaps are.


1 The definition of “sake” 

2 How to use the word “sake” 

3 Kinds of Japanese alcoholic drinks 

4 Delicious drinking  

5 What goes well with? 

6 Find your favorites! 

1.The definition of “sake” 

Firstly, let us start with introduce definition of Sake both in Japanese and English dictionary.  According to The Oxford Dictionary of Foreign Words and Phrases, “sake is Japanese rice wine”. On the other hand, refer to Daijisen which is a Japanese dictionary, the word “Sake” terms any alcoholic drink in a wide sense. In narrow sense, Sake is a popular name of nihonshu

2.How to use the word “sake”

In consideration of the above, there is a gap using the word “sake” between Japanese and English. Japanese people use it instead of the word “drink” in English. To say “Let’s go for drink”, Japanese people say “酒を飲みに行こう(Sake wo nomi ni ikou).” “Osake” that is just put “o” before the word “sake” is more polite expression. In this way, what is the correct way to order Japanese alcohol in Japanese taverns? 

Japanese drink menu has a lot of products. Japanese alcohol has many kinds and brands such as wine. Telling a waiter what brand you want is the right way to order.

3.Kinds of Japanese alcoholic drinks

  • Nihonshu (日本酒) : It is a unique Japanese liquor made from fermented rice and water. There are more than 1,000 kinds of nihonshu. There are sake breweries throughout Japan. Each sake has its own unique flavors and nuances. 
  • Shochu(焼酎): Shochu is a kind of distilled liquor. It is made of rice or buckwheat and some are also flavored with potatoes, soba, plum leaf or black sugar. Kyushu is a famous district for shochuYou can enjoy it on the rocks or straight, just like whiskey. You can also enjoy with hot water during the cold winter.  
  • Chuhai (チューハイ) : Chuhai is shochu diluted with soda, tea or fruit juice. It is  popular as beer in Japan. You can purchase canned chuhai at convenience stores in Japan. Canned chuhai are often priced cheaper than canned beer. 
  • Kajitsu-shu (果実酒) : Fruit liquor. There are many popular kajitsu-shu in Japan. For example, there are ume-shu (plum wine), anzu-shu (apricot wine) and  (peach). You can select the way to drink, with soda or on the rock. 

4.Delicious drinking

①Changing cups

It is said that the flavor of sake changes dramatically depending the shape or material of cups. There are a lot of drinking cups for sake, for instance cups made of glass, earthenware, porcelain, lacquer, tin and so on.  We will pick up and introduce some special drinking cups for sake, especially OchokoGuinomiand glass.  

  • Ochoko (おちょこ) :Ochoko is the most popular cup for sake and it is usually used together with Tokkuria sake bottle. It is a very small cup which capacity is about 40~60 milliliters. You would be drunk soon if you drink sake with a big glass because it has relatively high alcohol percentage, on average 15 degrees. That’s why drinking sake with the small cup is the best way. Drinking some water as a chaser with sake is also good.  
  • Guinomi (ぐい吞み) :Guinomi is also small cups but it is a little bit bigger than OchokoGui is an onomatopoeia to drink something at once. 
  • Glass (グラス) : Recently, glass is also used to drink sake. When you drink sake, which has a strong fruity flavor, you should use wine glass for it like wine. 

②Changing temperature

As I said before, flavor of sake changes depends on the temperature. Each sake has best temperature to drink and you can also change drinking degree depending on the season. We call hot sake “Atsukan” and cold one “Hiya.”  The most popular way to drink Atsukan is using Ochoko and Tokkuri. Hot sake in Tokkuriyou can pour it into Ochoko by yourself. When you drink Hiya, you should use glass for it. Sake is usually in the refrigerator to cool and glass is also cool, so you can enjoy cold sake with cold glass for a long time. Atsukan is popular in cold winter and Hiya is popular in hot summer. At Izakayawaiter usually put glass on the flat plate or Masu, small square wooden box used for drinking sake, and pour sake into glass until it overflowed from glass on purpose. 

5.What goes well with? 


When you try nihonshu, why don’t you try Japanese snacks or appetizers? We will introduce Japanese appetizers which go well with nihonshu and shochu. We will introduce some appetizers that Japanese people usually order. Eihire (ray fin), Edamame (green soybeans), yakitorisashimi (sliced raw fish) are popular. There are other snacks like chiitara (チータラ) which is made with cheese and ground white fish meat. Furthermore, each izakaya have characteristic menu. 

6 Find your favorite

Nihonshu has many kinds of taste, like karakuchi (dry)amakuchi (sweet), heavy and fruity. Tastes change depends on gradients, temperature the way to drink. Also, there is sparkling nihonshu, too. Some Japanese area has many jizake which means local nihonshuYou can enjoy Japanese alcohol by changing gradients, temperature, the way to drink and area. Also, there are many izakaya which service with cheap price, and you can get sake at convenience stores! Please just try to drink many kinds of Japanese alcohol and find your favorite one!