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Love at first drop—the origin of Japanese soy sauce

Region:

Yuasa is the birthplace of soy sauce in Japan. Called shoyu, Japanese soy sauce is produced using techniques and ingredients distinct from those used in other Asian countries and generally has a sweeter, maltier taste. As the foundation of Japanese cuisine—which itself has been designated by UNESCO as Intangible Cultural Heritage—shoyu came to Yuasa during the Kamakura period (1185-1333), brought from China in the form of Kinzanji miso. The fermentation of miso creates a flavorful runoff that local brewers began to use as a seasoning. In Yuasa, shoyu continues to be made with traditional fermentation techniques in hand-stirred vats, producing shoyu with a distinctly complex flavor.

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Regional foods: Kinzanji miso

While Kinzanji miso was the starting point for shoyu production in Yuasa, its popularity as a regional specialty did not end there. Possessing its own protected geographical indication (GI), Kinzanji miso is fermented with an unusual variety of ingredients: soybeans, barley, and rice are joined by pickled eggplant, cucumber, shiso (an herb), and other flavors to create a side dish. Served alongside white rice and bowls of chilled rice-tea porridge, it is a familiar sight on the household dining tables of Yuasa.

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Regional foods: Shirasu

Yuasa’s shoyu and miso specialties are complemented with access to fresh seafood from the Yuasa Bay. Aji (horse mackerel) and saba (chub mackerel) are town favorites, usually eaten grilled. Another popular catch is shirasu (tiny juvenile sardines). Shirasu are typically served in ample heaps over rice, then topped with shoyu, pickled plums, and dried seaweed to create a local specialty called shirasu-don. Because the shirasu are uncooked, they are best enjoyed freshly caught—yielding a flavor that, while simple, fills one’s mouth with the taste of the sea.

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Scenery: The traditional structures of Yuasa’s preservation district

For scenic views, visitors to Yuasa should visit the old shoyu brewing district in the northern part of town. Buildings there have been designated a “Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings,” and retain their historic white-plastered walls, tiled roofs, and wooden latticework. In addition, behind the Kadocho shoyu brewery runs the Daisenbori—a canal diverted from the Yamadagawa River to allow for easy loading and unloading in the days when commodities like shoyu relied upon water transport. Farther north of town lies Semuji, a Buddhist temple with grounds that offer a magnificent view of the Yuasa Bay. Looking down, one can also see terraced ranks of Tamura mikan (orange) trees growing on the hills around town.

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Activities: The Yuasa Machigoto Soy Sauce Museum

Yuasa is a town that preserves the Japan of earlier days—where better to stay, then, than a renovated historic home? SenzanAn is a facility that includes two separate guest lodgings, each with its own bath and cooking facilities. For hands-on activities, the miso and shoyu breweries in town offer tours and the chance to try stirring the vats of fermenting koji (mash). In fact, a newly-launched opportunity for sightseers called “The Yuasa Machigoto Soy Sauce Museum” is actually a six-hour walking tour of the historic brewery district. Participants visit six locations where they can sample local products made with Yuasa shoyu, including ramen, sushi, teriyaki, mochi, tempura, and a host of others.

Inquiries

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Name Yuasa-cho Tourism Association
URL http://www.yuasa-kankokyokai.com/aboutus.html