Origins and History of "Awamori"

The Japanese word for liquor is "sake" but in the Okinawan dialect, the term is "saki". Then, why is the distilled liquor of Okinawa called "Awamori"? There are several accepted explanations for the origin of this name;



The "Foxtail millet" story:
Foxtail millet ("Awa" in phonetic Japanese) was once an ingredient in Awamori. There are actually classical references to this explanation.
The 'foam' explanation:

There are two explanations for how the name Awamori came from the word for "foam" or "awa". One says that it comes from the tremendous amount of foam produced during distillation. A second says that the traditional way of measuring the degree of alcohol contained in Awamori was to pour the liquor into an pottery container, then to measure the height of the foam made. It is possible that a combination of the word for "foam" (Awa) and the word for "mound" (mori) resulted in "Awamori."
The Satsuma Fief explanation:

The Satsuma Clan (Kyushu Japanese who occupied Okinawa from 1609 to 1872) might have named the liquor Awamori to differentiate it from Japanese rice wine ("Shochu") made in the Kyushu region.
The Dynamics of the Golden Age of Trade
From the14th through the16th centuries, the Ryukyu Islands used its geographic positioning to establish itself as a sea going power and trading link between Asian countries. This foreign trade enhanced not only the economic wealth of the islands but enhanced life with cultural treasures as well. These aspects helped stabilize life for local people and were integrated into traditional Ryukyu culture. The Sanshin, a guitar shaped instrument which originated in China, is now closely associated with Okinawan culture. Kasuri, now freely called an Okinawan dyed fabric, came to the Ryukyus through India and Southeast Asia. The distilling techniques of Thailand (then Siam) were refined to create Awamori and other excellent liquors in Okinawa.


The Chinese Investiture Delegations and Awamori
Chinese investiture delegations were dispatched from the courts of ancient China to oversee enthronement of the King at Shuri. These delegations visited 24 times between 1404 to 1866. Often staying for up to half a year, these Imperial representatives would be served the finest and at the time rare, Awamori because of their importance.


The Tribute Processions to Edo and Awamori
18 times between 1634 through 1850, the occupied Kingdom of the Ryukyus was taxed to send a tribute delegation to Edo. Upon these occasions, the delegations were further required to bring various offerings. Among the offerings was always Awamori. In this way, Awamori played a vital role in Ryukyuan diplomacy.