Harima Archives

Harima Archives

2022.03.18 History of Soy Sauce-making

It Started with Four Vassals

It is safe to say that the history of Tatsuno soy sauce started when four vassals of the Akamatsu clan started brewing businesses. They opened Maruoya in present-day Honmachi, Tatsuno City, Kurusuya (later Senbonya) in Ote, and Kikuya (later the same name using different kanji) in Shimomachi. The Maruo family records indicate in 1612 that “we report that sake and miso are arriving while staying on alert for trade,” meaning that their business was mainly sake and that they also made miso.

From Sake to Miso

Tatsuno was originally a sake-brewing area on a par with Itami. However, because the water of the Ibogawa river was soft and contained little iron, the sake often went bad during brewing and could not be sold. In 1666, Maruo Magoemon, who ran Maruoya, developed a method to make usukuchi (light-colored) soy sauce. Because fresh sake would go bad, he added moromi (fermenting mash) to amazake before it becomes sake. As the story goes, this resulted in a flavorful soy sauce. Other breweries gradually shifted to making soy sauce as well, and in the 17th century, Tatsuno became a soy sauce producing area.

The Kansai Taste That Spread to Edo

In 1619, soy sauce was shipped from Osaka to Edo by merchants from Sakai in Izumi Province. The soy sauce from Kansai, which was sent to Edo, was recognized for its superior quality and taste compared to the Kanto region. It was called kudari-joyu (coming down soy sauce) coming from Kamigata (the direction of Kyoto). It cost an astonishing twice that of soy sauce produced in Kanto. In Kansai, before 1686, a method was used in which the moromi was placed in a bag and a stone placed on top to press the soy sauce. The technique was adopted in Kanto 25 years later. Up to that point, the soy sauce of Kanto had moromi mixed in, so the quality was different, enabling the high price gap.

Uphill Battle in the Kyoto Market

Shipping soy sauce to the Kyoto market began in earnest in 1746. The seventh-generation Magoemon of Maruoya had his eldest son Magohachi open a branch in Kyoto. Similarly, significant businesses also advanced into Kyoto, aiming to expand the market. The sixth head of Kikuya purchased shares in locally-made soy sauce and started a soy sauce brewery in Kamidachiuri Horikawa Higashi. 

However, Kyoto has a long history of soy sauce-brewing, which is said to have started in the Muromachi period. Even after the shogunate moved to Edo, production was active, and from the Hoei to Shotoku eras (1704–1715), the number of soy sauce brewers reached around 150, and soy sauce was even shipped to other provinces. With competition escalating, it was difficult for Tatsuno soy sauce to spread.

The Taste of Tatsuno Gained Recognition Quickly

Until the latter half of the 18th century, soy sauce from other provinces in the Kyoto market was monopolized by Bizen soy sauce. Tatsuno soy sauce started spreading from the latter half of the 18th century. In other words, it surpassed Bizen soy sauce in a short span of 20–30 years. This was because Tatsuno usukuchi soy sauce didn’t turn Kyoto cuisine the color of soy sauce, its sound quality, and the highly motivated sales stance of the managers. A surge in the number of merchants shipping products from Harima to Kyoto contributed to soy sauce spreading throughout Kyoto, the center of food and culture.

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