Fukuoka Shoyu ｜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.
The 100-year-old Soy Sauce from the Hometown of the Ninja
Iga city in Mie prefecture is known as a hometown of the Ninja. The descendants of the Ninja still live in this city. About a half an hour’s drive from the city center, in a scenic place where a river flows between the mountains, you will find Shimagahara District. The mountains and the rivers must have always been part of people's lives. In this district, there are many families with surnames which contain one of the two letters: “Yama” (mountain), or “Kawa” (river). Keizou is the 3rd-generation heir of Fukuoka Shoyu, which was established in 1895. His surname Kawamukai also has the letter “Kawa.” He is striving to make good soy sauce by joining hand-in-hand together with nature.
If you visit Shimagahara, Mr. Kawamukai’s brewery is must-see spot. Not just the brewery but also his house which stands next to the brewery. Its roof and walls are covered with microorganisms which have been blown from the brewery since its establishment. They are gleaming black. It is proof that soy sauce is a living thing.
Soon after you enter the brewery, you will find that you have been literally “welcomed” by the soy sauce. Your whole body will be enveloped by the fragrance which is given forth from the brewing soy sauce. From the young one, which has just been prepared, to the mature one, a balmy fragrance emanates from each soy sauce’s cedar bucket. All the fragrances together make a great harmony like an orchestra.
From the preparation and squeezing of moromi, which is made from fermented beans and malted wheat, to bottling and labeling, all of these processes are still done manually at Fukuoka Shoyu. An important task which greatly influences the taste of the soy sauce is squeezing moromi with a Kirin(giraffe)-style Compressor. The top beam of the press is made of a long log which looks like a giraffe’s neck. Moromi is squeezed slowly with the press by using the principles of the lever. This method does not completely squeeze all of the oil from the soybeans which greatly contributes to the taste of the soy sauce. Unfortunately, the Kirin-style Compressor is rarely seen nowadays in Japan. For this reason, Mr. Kawamukai’s Kirin-style Compressor is specified as a Registered Tangible Cultural Property.
“Hasamezu,”which is uncommon word to one’s ears literally means “cannot physically hold” and is the registered trademark of Mr. Kawamukai’s soy sauce brand. Back in time, people used to call soy sauce a “hasamezu food,” as it could not be held with chopsticks. After hearing this anecdote, Tomohiro, the second-generation owner of Fukuoka Shoyu, decided to use this name as a brand for his soy sauce. Of course, soy sauce cannot be held with chopsticks. However, the fragrance of the Hasamezu soy sauce of Fukuoka Shoyu can certainly be held by your taste buds. This is an important Japanese culinary treasure which, along with its traditional production methods, should be passed on to the next generation.