Why do the Japanese call sake ‘nihonshu’?

My memory is probably exaggerating, but the way I remember it I arrived in Japan only knowing the words “sake” and “sayonara”, only to find that the Japanese rarely use either in the way I had expected. Still, that’s not as bad as believing my French teacher when he told use that “baiser” means kiss…

“Sake” in fact has two meanings, being the normal way to refer to all alcoholic drinks as well as the famous Japanese rice wine in particular, and is more often used with the former meaning. There is also the only very slightly differently pronounced “sake” that means “salmon”…

To avoid possible misunderstandings, the clearer expression “nihonshu” (“Japanese alcohol” or perhaps “Japanese spirits”) is therefore more often used when talking about Japanese rice wine, though there is also the word “atsukan” for “nihonshu” served hot.

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2 Comments

  1. crella said,

    August 16, 2014 at 9:40 am

    And ‘reishu’ for the cold stuff, the way I like to drink it :-D

  2. nadim saeed said,

    November 10, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    “baiser” (noun) does mean kiss: un baiser = a kiss.

    “baiser” (verb), is indeed not a kiss or to kiss…


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