Origins of Sake Terminology – Drinking Vessels

Greetings Sake Lovers, welcome to another KURAND Magazine article that introduces you to the world of sake.

This is another article in our series attempting to shed some insight on the origins of various sake terms. In this article we look at the origins behind the names of the many drinking vessels.



The Chinese character for ochoko literally means the mouth of a wild boar. So, why the mouth of a wild boar?

The word ochoko originates from the word choku, a word often used to describe things in small quantities. The purpose of the ochoko itself is to allow the drinker to enjoy sake in small quantities.

In other words the origin sadly has nothing to do with wild boars. Rather it was simply named after its original purpose. Some theories insist that the ochoko resembles a wild boar from the side, but given that, as with most Japanese words, the Chinese characters were chosen simply for their phonetics, this is most likely nothing more than a convenient coincidence.



This is a sake vessel that is slightly larger than a ochoko.

The origin is from the term gui-gui, an onomatopoeia describing the sound of heavy drinking.

It began as a soba-choko (container used for noodle soap) and small tea drinking cups. However, drinking gui-gui from a guimoni will result in fast inebriation so it is only recommended for people with a high alcohol tolerance.



Sake vessels with an open top are called tenkai-sakazumi. The opening is trumpet shaped and
opens out towards the heavens.

And that is what tenkai means. The shape helps accentuate aroma more than traditional wine glasses or other sake vessels with a similarly narrow opening.



This is another vessel which is named after its shape. Wanguri-gata is a shape where the mouth of the vessel is wide open. The dictionary definition is “the state of having a wide open or gawking mouth”.



There are several theories for the origins of this term.
1. Onomatopoeia that describes the sound that sake makes when it is being poured from a bottle: tokuri-tokuri.
2. From the word donguri which is made from don which means deep bottle and from gui which means vessel for sake.
3. From the hangul word for saketsubo (sake jar) which is tsukuuru.

During the Edo period, common people used tokkuri to purchase sake and it was later used to make okan (warm sake). Since the origin of the word dates all the way back to the Edo period, it is hard to know which theory is correct, but we think they are all equally as plausible and wonderful.



Katakuchi is a pitcher for sake. It is larger than other sake vessels and is used for gatherings where sake is shared. There is a spout for pouring on one side.

This word originated from the fact that there is only one side to pour from (katakuchi in Japanese means mouth on one side). It is difficult to pour sake from a one sho bottle (1.8 liters). It is nice to be able to pour sake into a katakuchi so it can easily be poured into different containers to drink!



Chirori (container to warm sake)

Chirori is a vessel used to make one or two cups worth of okan. There are various theories for the origin of this word.
1. Because it is warmed using an irori (hearth).
2. Because it is heated in a short time which can be expressed as chirori.
3. People who love sake cannot wait so they stick their tongue out in a chirori fashion.

The last theory is very interesting. It is true that it is hard to wait for okan to finish heating!

Bonus: Recommended Sake Vessels for Different Types of Sake

Changing the vessel you drink from is a great way of adding an extra dimension to your sake experience because each vessel has different effect on the aroma and flavour or even the way the sake presents itself to you aesthetically.
For an in depth guide on matching vessel to sake, see this past article.

At KURAND we prepare a large selection of different vessels for you to experience sake. Why not come to KURAND and try them all and discover how profound the world of sake is. We look forward to welcoming you soon!