The world of sake: history and diversity

It is pleasing to see that premium sake is enjoying an ever-increasing popularity today, even though the number of breweries in Japan is declining. However, many breweries have recognized the trend and are increasingly focusing on quality rather than quantity.

But where does the term SAKE come from and what does it stand for?

The first written mention of sake can be found in the 8th century and has been recorded in kanji characters as 酒.

In Japanese, the meaning of these characters varies in context. Written alone, this kanji simply stands for sake, while at the end of another kanji, it stands for -zake or -shu.

There are different opinions about the origin of the word sake. Some believe that sake is derived from the term "Sakaeru," which means to flourish, thrive, or grow.

There are also views that the term sake is derived from "Sakae Mizu," which means "splendid water."

In another theory, SA is said to refer to the rice deity Sanaburi, and KE is an ancient reference to food.

The first reference to sake in the Western world was at the end of the 16th century by the Portuguese with the term Saqe, which appears in a Japanese-Portuguese dictionary.

In Japanese, sake often stands for alcohol in general, so the term Nihonshu is frequently used in spoken Japanese. In this term, reference is made to the national drink (Nihon = Japan and -shu = alcohol) with a geographical reference, which differentiates it from Yoshu (that is, Western alcohol).

Another term that is frequently used in connection with sake, especially in written form, is Seishu. This stands for refined alcohol or filtered sake.

Sake is very versatile and can therefore have different expressions. These are not always easy for even a sake connoisseur to understand.