Iio Jozo｜Scenery Where Rich Japan is Created
Japan, the island country which is slender and long, extending north to south.Small, but beautiful land with full of rich nature and blessed with pure water here and there.Delicious things have been developed from beautiful sceneries. In this series, we will introduce delectables originated from landscapes in Japan, which cannot be found in big cities.
Uncompromised Spirits Make Fine Vinegar
Iio Jozo devotes itself to the manufacture of vinegar from rice cultivated in abandoned terraced paddy fields
Founded in 1893 as a small vinegar store, Akihiro Iio is Iio Jozo’s fifth-generation owner. Iio Jozo’s home, Miyazu City, boasts Ama-no-Hashidate known as one of Japan’s three great scenic views. Akihiro Iio laments that “highly-toxic agrichemicals were used in farming during the period of high economic growth, a practice that resulted in the gradual disappearance of living organisms in paddy fields. In 1964, wishing to make vinegar with ingredients that were free of chemicals, third-generation owner Terunosuke Iio decided to grow rice without agrochemicals, a process he perfected through trial and error.” The fourth-generation owner borrowed abandoned terraced paddy fields. Because these fields are too narrow for machinery, planting and harvesting are performed manually. Recently, the planting and harvesting of Iio Jozo rice have become popular events attracting nearly 100 participants, including employees, brewers, partner companies, and people from the community.
The harvested rice is made into sumoto moromi, the unrefined sake used for vinegar. This process of changing koji (rice yeast) into shubo (yeast starter) and then into moromi is almost the same as the sake brewing process. Iio Jozo employs the traditional static fermentation method, a process which takes time and energy. The starter, water and unrefined sake base for the vinegar are heated at 40℃, and acetobacter pellicle is placed on the surface. After a few days, the surface is fully covered with a thin film, and acetic fermentation starts. According to Akihiro, “This acetobacter has lived in our brewery for over 120 years. It produces the particular flavor and aroma of our Fuji Vinegar.” Acetobacter changes alcohol into vinegar over a period of 80 to 120 days. Compared with commonly-used vinegar that is produced in one day, Fuji Vinegar has a milder aroma and less sourness. Although it takes more time and energy, gradually blending the acetobacter and water softens the sourness and bitterness. During the ageing period of 240 to 300 days, the vinegar is decanted into fresh tanks more than five times. Iio Jozo is true to its founding principle, “Take the greatest care while making the vinegar to ensure that customers receive our absolute best.”
The Tango Area where Iio Jozo is located is blessed with high-quality treats fresh from the ocean, mountains, and farms. With the goal of vitalizing the area by becoming Japan’s favorite brand, Akihiro is committed to continuing Iio Jozo’s tradition of providing the finest, safest and most delicious vinegar. He has a vision of turning Tango into a town like San Sebastian, the resort in Spain famous for its delicious food, by 2025, and his vision has been moving toward realization with the scheduled opening in 2017 of the Italian restaurant “aceto” in a renovated 120-year old Japanese-style house. Aceto will feature appetizing selections cooked with vinegar. Guests will enjoy the collaboration between local specialties and vinegar, and the beautiful view of the nature surrounding Iio Jozo will increase the deliciousness of the food and the magic of the moment.
Photographer & Cinematographer Tadahiko NAGATA
A photographer with a reputation for bringing out personal attractions.
Received Asahi Advertising Photograph award, New York ADC award, Yomiuri Advertising section award and others.
Text by Miki NAIKI Photographs by Tadahiko NAGATA