Yuasa traditionally was an important way station on the Kumano Pilgrimage Route where nobles stayed on their way to their destination – the three sacred shrines （Kumano Sanzan）. In Medieval times, when the Pilgrimage became popular among the bushi （or samurai） and civilians, the Route was often dubbed as the “ants procession” for its popularity. In late Muromachi Period （1336～1573）, Yuasa continued to develop as the section of the Route along the mountain ridges shifted west towards the coast, and experienced further growth during Edo Period. In the Early Modern Period, Yuasa flourished as an important center for land- and sea-based transport and trade, various commercial activities and industries. The town also prospered from fishing and fishnet manufacturing. The fishing industry expanded as far as Kyushū to the south and Hokkaido to the north. The most distinct industry, however, was the shōyu （soy sauce） brewing, which is said to have been discovered as a by-product of the kinzanji-miso introduced from China during the Kamakura Period （1185-1333）. During the Edo Period （1603～1868）, the market expanded under the protection of the Kishū Feudal Domain （now Wakayama Prefecture）, and the soy sauce brewing became Yuasa’s major industry. The record says as many as ninety-two shōyu makers operated in Bunka Period （1804～1818）. After the Meiji Restoration （1868）, as the government subsidy terminated, the industry reduced in scale, but Yuasa still was a major economic and political center in the province of Arida-gun in the Modern Period. Today, the traditional townscape remains largely intact, without being affected by the surrounding infrastructure development.
As visitors walk through Yuasa’s remarkably well-preserved narrow warren of streets, they will be welcomed by the smell of delicious soy sauce wafting out of the historic breweries.
In Yuasa, the history and traditions of soy sauce brewing continue to thrive through the inviting aromas, beautiful objects and local customs that exist in the lives of its inhabitants.
Using the traditional Japanese process, honjozo, naturally brewed soy sauce is made using only four basic ingredients: soybeans, wheat, salt and water.
Koji Production, Mixing and Aging
Aspergillus, one of Koji fungus is mixed with processed soy beans and wheat, then moved to a facility that provides the optimal environment for propagating koji mold. The three-day process results in the production of shoyu koji, the essential base of soy sauce.
The shoyu koji is moved to a tank and mixed with the brine. and aged in the tank.
The moromi is aged for several months. Various actions take place in the tank, including lactic acid, alcoholic, and organic acid fermentation, all of which impact to the moromi the rich flavor, aroma and color that are unique to soy sauce.
Pressing and Refining
Soy sauce is pressed from aged moromi. During pressing, the moromi is pored into special equipment wherein the mash is strained through layers of fabric, with each folded into three sub-layers. After allowing the soy sauce to flow out of the moromi under the force of gravity. The moromi is then mechanically pressed slowly and steadily for about ten hours.
The soy sauce is heated to adjust color, flavor and aroma.
If you can visit Wakayama prefecture, why not come to Yuasa town and buy traditional Shoyu!
By Masa Tamura