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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Family Stays Loyal to Art Of Soy Sauce

YUASA, Japan -- Brewed from soy beans and wheat and seasoned with pure salt, shoyu is as inseparable from Japanese food as the potent rice wine sake, but only one maker of traditional soy sauce survives today.


Having been taught the art of soy sauce by China in the 13th century, Japan brought the process to Yuasa, where the house of Kadacho stands firmly loyal to the original ingredients and manufacturing process.


Kadacho president Chobe Kano, 73, says the company has been "preserving this method for 150 years."


A graduate of the prestigious Waseda University and the fourth generation of his family to make soy sauce, Kano said that during his university years there were 24 soy-sauce makers in the region, and he was once advised by his family to quit the business.


In Japan, the perception used to be that soy sauce had to be very salty, said Kano's son-in-law and heir Makoto Kano, 43.


"But now the public realizes that small manufacturers are producing a traditional [style] sauce, not so salty. The only way we can survive is to produce something that is different," Makoto Kano said.


Kadocho sells its soy sauce all over Japan, but with annual production at 250,000 liters, it is a premium commodity, available in Tokyo only through the top-line supermarkets. The sauce is not cheap at 1,600 yen ($13.50) per liter.


After following a traditional soy sauce recipe, the fermentation process begins in October and ends nearly 1 1/2 years later in early March. Water from pure natural springs is added with a carefully measured quantity of salt, the amount of which differs according to a company's house recipe.


Kano said each of the two-meter deep, 3,600-liter open vats "has its own unique flavor" after the lengthy fermentation process.


Kadacho stays true to using wooden vats and wood fires in the manufacturing instead of the modern steel vats and gas. Huge, roped wheels, an idea of the late American writer Ernest Hemingway, who visited for a time, are used to squeeze the juice from the mix. The juice is then heated over a wood fire for half a day to sterilize the sauce and lift impurities to the surface.


"There are many soy sauce makers in Japan, but our selling point is that we follow traditional methods," the elder Kano said.