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Sakana () or shukō () is a Japanese term referring to food eaten as an accompaniment to alcohol, which originated from the words saka (sake) and na (side dish). Another word for "snack" in Japanese is otsumami (お摘み).[a] Because dried fish and salted fish roe were popular choice for such dishes, over the years the term sakana also came to mean "fish".

Types of sakana

In Japan, when alcohol is consumed, it is customary that the drinks are always accompanied with some sort of foodstuff. The term sakana traditionally refer to food served to accompany sake. These are usually quite salty and served in relatively small portions. However, since the 19th century, the market share for Japanese beer has been expanded in Japan, which in 1959 overtook sake as the nation's most popular alcoholic beverage in taxable shipping volume,[3] and at the same time various foods designed to accompany beer have become popular. These dishes, served in restaurant-pubs known as izakaya, are usually more substantial than tapas although they are not considered a meal as such as they do not contain the all-important Japanese rice. Traditionally, the Japanese regarded sake, which is made from rice, as a substitute for white rice served in a standard Japanese meal, and as a result some Japanese do not eat rice and drink alcohol simultaneously.[original research?]

Listed below are some common sakana.

Various otsumami sold at a supermarket
Chu-hi can sold with otsumami attached on the top


  1. ^ The Japanese noun tsumami meaning "something to nibble/eat with a drink", which is beautified by adding a honorific prefix o and becoming otsumami.;[1] this term usually applies to smaller dishes. Fish that was called in general uo before Edo period[2]


  1. ^ Martin Collick; David P.Dutcher; Tanabe Munekazu; Kaneko Minoru, eds. (2002). "おつまみ". Kenkyusha's New College Japanese-English Dictionary (5 ed.). ISBN 978-4-7674-2058-5.
  2. ^ Kusano Noboru (2003). 語源辞典: 名詞編 [Etymological Dictionary - Nouns] (in Japanese). Tokyo Shuppan. p. 115.
  3. ^ Regional Project Department. "清酒業界の現状と成長戦略 - 「國酒」の未来" [Status of Sake Breweries and Growth Strategy for the Industry - Future for the "National Beverage"] (PDF). Development Bank of Japan Inc. p. 9. Retrieved 2016-03-08.

See also