Translator’s note.

About the Glossary.

This Glossary is based on a work produced by the Society for Nada Sake Research (SNSR), a tremendous compendium of specialist technical and historical information about sake brewing, far exceeding the scope of interest of most general readers, and containing much information which has never been made available in the English language before.

Bearing in the mind the technical nature of much of the material, the SNSR did not set out with accessibility as the first priority, nor is this translation aimed at the casual reader looking for a simple introduction to sake.  It assumes the reader will already have considerable basic knowledge and is intending to become still more deeply immersed in the fascinating technicalities of sake.  Though there is much to enjoy for the advanced (or purely inquisitive) sake fan, this is primarily a rich resource for English speakers involved professionally with nihonshu (and for Japanese needing to communicate the more technical aspects of sake in English).

In translating, I have been particularly aware of the small but growing number of non-Japanese who work in breweries in Japan.  I know from my own experience (twenty-three-and-a-half brewing seasons survived at the time of writing) what linguistic challenges a sake brewery presents.  My first priority has been to make as useful a resource as possible for non-Japanese colleagues at the sharp end of the sake world, even when this has required a sacrifice of elegance.


Transcription issues.

There are various systems for transcribing Japanese into English; my approach here is based on the (revised) Hepburn system.

For an online resource, it was necessary to avoid using characters which would be unreadable on non-Japanese computers.  A word like ginjo (with a long “o” sound, is best represented in type with a macron – ginjō – but this would be scrambled on many computers.  As it is conventional to show extremely familiar words without the macron (– like Tokyo, which should properly have two –) I have followed this practice.  However, for people working in actual breweries with actual Japanese co-workers, it is crucial to be able to pronounce correctly for work to proceed smoothly.  A short vowel spoken where a long one is needed frequently makes it impossible for a native Japanese speaker to understand what is meant.

With this in mind, words in the headings of each entry have been given in the full form (with macrons, as in ginjō), and without (as in ginjo) wherever they appear in the main body of the text.  (The kanji characters for the words are also given in the headings.)  In the main text I have noted the existence of a long vowel in brackets, even though it makes for rather clumsy reading; I have given priority to providing a usable guide to pronunciation, rather than an uncluttered sentence.  Vital brewery vocabulary like ginjo and koji (which anyone who has dealt with sake for five minutes knows as loanwords) appear without this extra information.  It is the hope of the SNSR that this resource will help these terms become part of the working vocabulary of English speakers involved with sake, and the text reflects that by not discriminating against such words with italics.


Personal names

I have followed the Japanese practice of putting family name first, and given name second.


A note on pronunciation

Soft consonants in Japanese words are hardened when used in compound words.  So, for example, the soft “s” of sake becomes a hard “z” sound in compounds like nama-zake, and the soft “k” of kura becomes a “g” sound in shikomi-gura, and the soft “h” of hako becomes a voiced “b” in koji-bako


Philip Harper, March 2016