For an explanation of the English word “sake”, refer to the entry for seishu.

In contemporary Japanese, the word sake (or, honorifically, o-sake) in its narrow sense indicates seishu (or nihonshu), but it is also used as a collective term for wine, beer and alcoholic drinks in general. For that reason, when dealing with the English sense of sake, misunderstandings can be best avoided by using the expressions seishu or nihonshu. Nihonshu is commonly used in conversation, whereas seishu sounds somewhat technical.

When a Japanese person says they like “sake”, it means they like drinking alcohol in general, not nihonshu specifically. Conversely, someone who says they “don’t like ‘sake’ ” is usually referring to a dislike of alcoholic drinks in general. For better or for worse, sake is used as a blanket term for all kinds of alcoholic beverages.

In most bars and restaurants in Japan, the word sake generally applies to nihonshu, but it will be taken to mean shochu spirit in central and southern areas of the Kyushu region.   This is because shochu has historically been more widely produced and consumed than nihonshu in the Kyushu area.