History of Miso and Soybean Chiang - Page 3

by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi

A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and
Soyfoods, 1100 B.C. to the 1980s


©Copyright 2004 Soyinfo Center, Lafayette, California

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Before proceeding, it might be interesting to reflect briefly on the origins and genealogies of miso and shoyu. The most widely held opinion among Japanese researchers and fermented-food historians is that both miso and shoyu trace their ancestry to Chinese jiang. However Dr. Kinichiro Sakaguchi, Professor of Fermentation Science at Tokyo University, in his "Searching for the Roots of Shoyu" (1979) argues convincingly that today's miso traces its ancestry back through early Japanese misos and hishio to jiang, whereas shoyu traces its ancestry back through early shoyu, then through the four products of tamari shoyu, tamari miso, Hatcho miso, and savory soy nuggets (Hamanatto), and ultimately to Chinese soy nuggets ( chi or shih ). In the shoyu lineage, the koji is always made from either soybeans alone or a mixture of soybeans and cracked wheat, whereas in the miso lineage the koji is always made from grain. Sakaguchi believes that the fundamental biochemical consequences of this difference are of much greater importance than the more superficial differences of form that have led researchers up until now to group solid or semisolid products in the miso lineage and liquid products in the shoyu lineage. Thus, in shoyu, the Aspergillus oryzae molds act directly on the soybeans during the koji fermentation, then their enzymes continue to act on the soybeans during the subsequent brine fermentation. This leads to the formation of more complicated metabolic compounds, a higher degree of protein hydrolysis and liquefaction, and the production of a sharper and stronger flavor in shoyu than in miso. Sakaguchi argues that miso has a 3,000-year history dating from the development of jiang during the Chou dynasty in China, whereas shoyu has a 2,000-year history dating from the development of soy nuggets ( chi ) during the Han dynasty. It is important to note here that most Chinese would probably disagree with Dr. Sakaguchi. They clearly trace the lineage of their soy sauce to jiang, not to chi , as evidenced the Chinese word for soy sauce, jiangyou , meaning "the liquid extracted from jiang." Moreover, most of their jiang and chi have always been made from a soy-based koji. We would say that both miso and shoyu trace their lineage back to both soy nuggets ( chi , which existed prior to 206 BC) and to soybean jiang (which existed prior to AD 500).

Dr. Sakaguchi considers there to be three main reasons that shoyu and miso were not developed in the West: (1) Westerners did not know how to make koji using molds; (2) they had no soybeans until the 20th century; and (3) the basic flavoring components of shoyu and miso, especially natural L-glutamic acid and inosinic acid, were traditionally unknown in the West.

The Meiji and Pre-War Periods (1867-1939) . From 1635 until 1854 Japan had lived in relative seclusion and isolation under the Tokugawa shoguns. The great advances made in Western science during this 220-year period passed largely unnoticed. There were few important developments in the production of miso or other fermented foods, and those which were made by local craftsmen were based on an empirical, trial-and-error process. In 1854 the American Commodore Perry forced Japan to end its self-imposed isolation and begin trade with the West. In 1868 the emperor replaced the declining Tokugawa shoguns as the political head of the state, ushering in the Meiji Restoration. Openness, modernization, Westernization, scientism, positivism, and the ideal of progress all formed the dominant method of the Meiji Period, which lasted until 1912. In 1877 Tokyo Imperial University, the most famous of the new breed of government colleges and universities, was established, primarily for teaching Western science and technology. By paying princely salaries and offering high positions, the Japanese were able to attract top European scientists to staff the new universities.

The imported European scientists and professors (mostly Germans and Englishmen) caused an almost immediate revolution in the field of Japanese food fermentations, for they brought with them the powerful tools of the Western scientific method and a host of new discoveries in the fields of fermentation and microbiology. Prior to 1870, makers of miso and other fermented foods were unaware of the basic nature of the fermentation process, of microorganisms, enzymes, and their respective interactions. Makers of koji had no idea what caused grains and/or soybeans to become covered with a fragrant white mycelium after several days' incubation in a warm koji room, or what later transformed the koji almost magically into delicious, savory miso or shoyu. The microscope was essentially unknown in East Asia prior to the 1880s.

The pioneering first generation of European scientists in Japan studied the country's many fermented foods with great curiosity and enthusiasm. One of the first subjects for research was the koji mold, now known as Aspergillus oryzae , and the various foods in which it was used: sake, shoyu, and miso. In 1874 the German professor Dr. J.J. Hoffmann wrote the earliest known description, detailed and scientific, of the process for making rice koji--although he did not use the word koji . In 1878 Korschelt, also a German, gave a long, detailed description of exactly how koji and koji starter were made. Although Hepburn had mentioned koji in his Japanese-English Dictionary of 1867??, Korschelt was the first Western scientist to use the terms koji and tane^?? koji . In a section of Korschelt's article and in a Japanese article written with Matsubara in 1878, Ahlburg, another German, who taught natural history at Tokyo University, gave the first detailed description of the koji mold, which he called Eurotium Oryzae Ahlburg. In 1884 the Polish botanist and mycological taxonomist F.J. Cohn first gave the koji mold its present name, Aspergillus oryzae . After 1884 the koji mold was referred to as Aspergillus oryzae (Ahlburg) Cohn, in recognition of Ahlburg's earliest accurate description. Other early pioneering research on koji and sake was done by the Englishman Atkinson (1878, 1881a,b), the German Kellner (1889), and the Dutchman Wehmer (1895, 1901).

The first scientific study of miso in Japan was published, not by a Japanese, but by a German, Dr. Oscar Kellner, in conjunction with two Japanese scientists, M. Nagaoka and Y. Kurashima. In their "Researches on the Manufacture and Composition of Miso," published in English in 1889 in the Bulletin of the College of Agriculture , Tokyo Imperial University , they devoted 24 pages to miso's history, raw materials, manufacture, and chemical changes during fermentation, plus a description of eight types of miso and an analysis of four of these. The authors stated that miso was widely consumed by the lower classes and was especially favored in the northeastern provinces. In the countryside it was made by families in their homes, with special miso works being established only in large communities. Noting that no statistics on miso consumption were then available in Japan, Kellner made the rough estimate (which he was sure was on the low side) that since the smallest amount of miso consumed per day by one person was about 37.5 grams (10 monme or 2.16 tablespoons) and since an estimated 20 million of Japan's 39 million inhabitants (51%) ate miso every day, the yearly miso consumption was nearly 30 million kilograms. Actually Kellner's arithmetic was mistaken; even assuming that the remaining 49% ate no miso (an impossible but most conservative assumption), his figures show an average per capita consumption of 19.1 gm per day or 6.98 kg per year, for a total production of 274,000 tonnes (metric tons) per year, a more probable figure, but still probably much too low. He then concluded, whether by calculation or from original data is not known, that more than half of Japan's yearly production of soybeans (335,800 tonnes in 1883) were used to make miso.

In 1905 Oshima in Japan reported that statistics for Japanese living in areas other than in the countryside consumed an average of 43 gm of miso a day, with a range of 13 to 100 gm; average rural consumption was estimated at 40 gm per person per day. Given that 80% of the population was rural, this would give an average daily consumption figure of 40.6 gm, or 14.8 kg per capita per year.

In 1911 Shaw, a British customs official in Manchuria, reported that, according to the latest statistics, the Japanese consumed 724,656 metric tons of soybeans and that the majority (393,768 tonnes or 54%) were used to make miso. Given that 1 kg of soybeans in those days yielded 2.5 pounds of miso, this would give an annual production of 984,419 tonnes of miso. The population of 49.85 million would then consume 19.7 kg per capita per year. These figures seem much too high.

In 1913 Takahashi and Abe estimated annual Japanese miso consumption at 45,000,000 kg or 45,000 tonnes, equivalent to 0.88 kg per capita per year. These figures are so far below the other estimates that they are highly suspect.

The figures of Kellner, Oshima, show a rapid growth in total production and per capita consumption of miso from 1889-1911. Kawamura and Tatsumi (1972), however, estimated Japanese per capita miso consumption to be roughly constant from the start of the Edo period (1600) to the beginning of World War II, at 35 gm per person per day or 12.78 kg per person per year. This assumption shows production increasing directly with population as indicated in Figure ??.?. The various production statistics (excepting Shaw's) from 1889-1940 show roughly similar trends. During this period, more than 50% of all Japanese miso was made noncommercially in people's homes or farmhouses, where it was consumed by the family; in 1940 some 35-55% was made in homes and farmhouses.

Most of the early scientific research on miso and miso koji, during the period from the mid-1870s-1905, was done by Europeans, as will be discussed later at "Europe." In 1889, however, Mori and Nagaoka assisted the German Kellner in an article "On the Manufacture, Composition and Properties of Koji," and Nagaoka and Kurashima assisted Kellner that same year in his classic article on miso. Starting in the early 1900s Japanese researchers began to write a number of articles on miso in European languages (primarily English and German) for both Japanese and European publications. Oshima (1905) discussed miso's nutritional value and its consumption in Japan. Takahashi (1908, in Japanese) wrote "A Preliminary Note on the Chemical Composition of Miso." Takahashi and Abe (1913, in English) published "Preliminary Notes on the Chemical Composition of Miso," containing an analysis of miso's amino acids. Akaghi and co-workers (1915) wrote "Researches on Hatcho-Miso." In 1921 Kinoshita wrote a 480-page tome entitled Practical Miso Fermentation , the most complete work on miso production to date. In 1924 Nishiwaki (in German) wrote about Hatcho miso koji and tome ^?? koji . In 1935 and 1936 I. Iwamura wrote three articles in Japanese about miso in Nippon Nogei Kagaku Kaishi . He was one of the first to investigate the use of warming the miso during fermentation to shorten the fermentation time. The extent of other research articles on miso published in Japanese prior to World War II is not known.

The result of all this research was that Japanese gained a better understanding of and control over the miso fermentation. One of the earliest major advances came in 1904, when the Japanese prepared their first pure-culture koji starters for use in miso.

Beginning in the early 1930s, the world of Japanese miso-production underwent a series of drastic changes which have continued to affect it up until the present. With the rise of Japanese militarism, the conquest of new overseas territories in Korea, China, and Manchuria, and the development of Hokkaido and the islands to the north, many new markets for miso appeared and stimulated the growth of miso factories with international scope. By 1936, commercial miso production had soared to an all-time estimated high of 600,000 tonnes or 600 million kg--a figure that would not be equalled again until the mid-1970s. But in 1936 most basic Japanese foodstuffs, including miso, were suddenly subjected to strict government price and quality controls. For purposes of standardization, government authorities grouped all miso varieties into three types (rice, barley, and soybean) and two grades (excellent and medium). Each type and grade had a fixed price. Although the designation of special varieties--such as Edo, Shinshu, or Hatcho miso--was allowed, the brand names of individual makers were outlawed. This system delivered a mortal blow to the production of many fine miso varieties and tended to encourage makers to lower their quality to the minimum, since they were assured that whatever they made would be sold.

World War II and the Postwar Period: Modern Times (1940-1983) . To counter the growing threats to miso quality from oppressive controls, Japan's first nationwide miso trade association, the Japanese National Miso Association ( Zenkoku Miso Kogyo Kumiai Rengokai ) was founded in January 1940. In 1944 it came under government control, but in 1948 regained its original independence; in November 1960 it was rechartered under its original name and today it is very active with large offices and several publications in Tokyo.

With the founding of the Japanese National Miso Association in 1940, the provincial miso trade associations were unified under its leadership. Although its representatives worked with determination for the repeal of the oppressive controls, they were unsuccessful. During the war years, miso production decreased considerably, and although the control system was abolished after the war in 1946, the damage it did to the consciousness of both miso producers and consumers was never fully repaired. Many makers had lost pride in the quality of their product and had begun to adapt themselves to faster, lower-cost methods of production. And many consumers had begun to lose their sensitivity and appreciation for fine natural miso as they grew accustomed to standardized, lower-quality products.

During the war, with the massive food shortages and dislocations throughout the Japanese food system, miso consumption and production inevitably dropped, and they continued to fall until about 1950 during the period of postwar austerity, but rebounded sharply with recovery, rising to a postwar peak in about 1955. Thereafter, however, miso consumption and production began a steady decline, that has continued to the present (Fig. ??). There were various reasons for this trend.

After World War II, the entire value system of the Japanese people underwent a dramatic change. The process of Westernization that had begun in 1868 was suddenly accelerated in the areas of food clothing, and housing. Western-style diets with higher contents of animal products, sugar, and refined foods, with white bread partially replacing white rice, gradually became the norm, partially replacing traditional Japanese eating patterns in which miso played a more important role. At the same time, mechanization in agriculture and other areas and the resulting more urban, sedentary lifestyle, greatly reduced physical labor, and with it both salt consumption and total food intake. This Westernization of the diet and mechanization with less physical labor were the main factors leading to reduced miso consumption. During the 1960s concern among Japanese over their excessive salt consumption (then twice that of most other nations) further accelerated the decline. Between 1955 and 1980, per capita miso consumption fell from 10 kg per person down to 6, a drop of 40%. The 1980 figure was still, however, 11.2 grams or about 1 tablespoon per day. During the 1970s, the per capita miso consumption of urban businessmen was only 58% of the national average.

With this decline in per capita miso consumption, total miso production also fell. Actually commercial or factory miso production after 1955 stayed quite constant, even rising slightly after 1965, in part because of slowly rising population. The main drop came in home miso production, as the country became more urbanized, commercial miso became more widely available at low prices, and people generally found less time or inclination to make their own. Thus from a peak of 336,000 tonnes in 1945 (homemade miso increased during the war), it fell to a mere 75,000 tonnes in 1980, a decline of 78%. The drop in total production combined with the larger proportion of rice used in miso led to a decline of total soybean usage in miso from about 288,000 tonnes in 1960 to 226,000 tonnes in 1980.

During the postwar period, dramatic changes in the structure of the miso industry also took place, in part because the entire economy was shifting from a rural-agricultural to an urban-industrial base, but more specifically because of a government postwar taxes and incentives designed to stimulation modernization, mechanization, and amalgamation. Within the space of one generation, the primary center of miso production shifted from farmhouses and private homes to commercial shops; just before and during the war, 55% of the country's total miso output was homemade, whereas in 1980 less than 11% was homemade. As shops grew into small factories and moved nearer to cities, the higher costs of land and labor demanded increased profitability from each unit of capital, space, and time; this led to extensive mechanization of the miso process including quick temperature-controlled fermentation, development of fast-maturing sweeter misos, and machine-paced packaging methods. As a result, the number of commercial manufacturers decreased from 5,500 during the 1930s (at which time they were mostly small and medium-sized shops) to 4,800 in 1950, then down to 1,900 in 1980, a 60% drop in 30 years. Meanwhile, the number of highly mechanized, large factories showed a steady increase. By 1958 a number of miso plants had a capacity of up to 10 tonnes per day. By 1965 a number of the larger traditional manufacturers had amalgamated to form huge modern companies; 23 factories had a yearly capacity of at least 4,00 tonnes each, and the ten largest made 154,000 tonnes per year, or about 26% of the nation's total miso output. By 1974 the latter statistic had climbed to 30% and individual factories were then turning out 15,000-20,000 tonnes a year. The names of the "top ten" miso companies (see Appendix E??) had become household words in Japan. In 1980 Japan's 1,900 commercial miso manufacturers employed 10,600 workers and made miso with a net ex-factory value of $573 million.

During the postwar period Japanese research on microbiology and its application to food fermentations advanced rapidly; soon the Japanese became world leaders in this field. Important early publications on these subjects, all in Japanese, include the works of Tomoda and Sakaguchi (1956), Nakano (1967), Yoshii and Kaneko (1972 Ref??), and Sakaguchi et al. (1974).

Research on miso and its fermentation increased substantially, along with the advances in applied microbiology. One of the first Japanese sciences to apply these new advances to miso production was Dr. Masahiro Nakano, Professor of Microbiology at Meiji University and the dean of modern miso researchers in Japan. Nakano (1967, 1976, the latter with Ebine and Ito) published extensively in Japanese, and he taught many other fine miso researchers, including Dr. Hideo Ebine and Dr. Tsutomu Mochizuki. Dr. Ebine worked at the Japanese National Food Research Institute. Between 1966 and 1976 he and his co-workers published many miso studies; seven of the most important of these (a number of which are in English) are cited in our Bibliography. During the early 1980s Ebine worked at the National Miso Association's Central Miso Research Center. Dr. Mochizuki, director of the prestigious Shinshu Miso Research Center, also published extensively.

By the mid-1960s, the following "Advances in Miso Production" were being proudly hailed by Japanese food scientists. Halophilic (salt tolerant) lactic acid bacteria ( Pediococcus halophilus and Streptococcus faecalis ) and yeasts ( Saccharomyces rouxii and Torulopsis species) were being used commercially as inocula by some miso makers. They remarkably reduced the fermentation time required to obtain a well-fermented miso with a pleasing flavor. Batch type rotary pressure cookers, which heated to 120°C, replaced traditional steel or iron caldrons; the rotary action gave even cooking. Mechanized rotary fermenters (huge horizontal-axis rotating drums), with regulated temperatures and humidities, and purified circulating air, were used in large plants to replace the traditional, labor-intensive koji rooms. Epoxy-lined steel and concrete tanks came to be used in place of the huge, traditional cedar vats; coopers gradually were put out of business. Miso prepackaged in polyethylene bags rapidly replaced that sold out of wooden kegs. The combination of the sealed bags, nationwide distribution, supermarket retailing, and sweeter misos with less salt led to the use of pasteurization and preservatives (sorbic acid to keep the bags from bursting). Some research was done on the use of enzyme preparations to replace koji for hydrolysis of miso's protein and carbohydrates. They did not give satisfactory results except for soybean miso, for which they reduced the fermentation time by 33% and the yield by 8% (Watanabe 1969; Watanabe et al. 1971, 1974; Ebine 1971). By the late 1970s huge koji incubation rooms, with perforated stainless steel floors, had replaced the rotary fermenters in large factories; koji filled the room to a depth of 12 inches or more and was stirred and harvested mechanically. Ethyl alcohol preservatives began to replace sorbic acid.

Ingredients also changed after the mid-1960s. In 1971 Ebine wrote that Japanese soybeans were the best for making miso, followed by those from China and then the USA. US soybeans were generally considered "not suited for making miso of high quality." Extensive research by Shibasaki, Ebine, and others, however, located three US varieties (Kanrich, Mandarin, and Comet) which were considered comparable to the best Japanese ones. Being less expensive, the US soybeans soon became widely used. During the 1960s quite a bit of low-cost defatted soybean meal was also used in miso, but this resulted in an inferior product and the practice was largely abandoned; less than 0.5% was used after 1975. In addition, more rice and less barley and soybeans were used in miso to accelerate the fermentation process and give a lighter-colored, sweeter product. Water, previously drawn from deep wells, was partially replaced by the chlorinated product supplied by municipal pipelines. Natural sea salt was abandoned for sodium chloride--the only product now produced by the Government Salt Monopoly Corporation. Japanese grown soybeans gave way to lower-cost, generally lower-quality American soybeans. And a wide variety of chemical additives, in addition to preservatives, came to be used quite uncritically in miso: coloring agents, MSG, rice anti-clumping agents, artificial sweeteners, bleach, and the like. Yet the basic ingredients remained the same. Ebine (1972) reported that in 1969 some 180,000 tonnes of soybeans, 92,000 tonnes of rice, 19,000 tonnes of barley, and 75,000 tonnes of salt were used to make 552,000 tonnes of various types of commercial miso. In addition, roughly 150,000 to 200,000 tonnes of miso were made at home for home use. Note that, on average, 1 tonne of soybeans yielded 3.06 tonnes of miso, and 4.8 times as much rice as barley was used.

One of the major and very unfortunate result of the modernization, mechanization, and concentration of control in Japan's miso industry was the gradual loss of the local and regional character of traditional misos. Nevertheless a considerable number of provincial (and some urban) miso masters continued to value the ancient way and the distinctiveness of their local, unique products. Like the many thousands of small European wine or cheese makers who have successfully resisted modern standardization by showing that real quality is found in tradition, individuality, and naturalness, these Japanese miso masters chose to view the modern rush toward uniform factory miso as a passing fad. Keeping in touch with the great natural cycles and with their own traditions and intuitions, they held on to their fine wooden tools and vats, searched for sources of natural ingredients, and never forgot the true meaning of "culture." Nourishing the secrets and wholeness of their craft, they worked hard--and waited. Some (such as Sendai Miso Shoyu and the major Hatcho miso companies) exported their misos to a growing market demanding such products in North America and Europe. In addition, there were efforts to revive traditional and unique misos. Mogi (1946) described the preparation of misos using unconventional carbohydrate sources, such as potatoes, chestnuts, buckwheat, millet, etc. Misumi Kan, a Kyushu-born novelist, worked to resuscitate homemade miso. Upon retirement he turned his spacious Tokyo home into a center for the study and preparation of miso and miso pickles. His two books about his work, Miso University and Pickle University , written in a highly literary and personal style, contain a wealth of information about the preparation of these two fermented foods in the traditional, natural way, plus many color and monochromatic photographs.

An important and colorful figure in the movement to revive traditional regional diversity of miso types and uses, explore miso history, and stamp out mass-produced uniform, modern misos was Wataru Kawamura, who became known throughout Japan as "Miso Sensei" (Miso Professor). In 1958 he wrote Historical Chronicles of Miso , an 815-page tome that was the first definitive work on the subject. In 1972 he and Ms. Hamako Tatsumi teamed up to write Japan's first Book of Miso (320 pages). In part I he discussed miso history in China and Japan (upon which we have drawn heavily), miso production and varieties, and the role in miso in the various Japanese provinces. In part II Ms. Tatsumi presented several hundred of Japan's best known miso recipes. In 1973 he wrote Miso Soups Throughout the Provinces , in 1974 Encyclopedia of Miso Soups , and in 1976 (with the Japanese National Miso Association), Miso Digest , a booklet of basic information about miso in Japan. Mr. Kawamura followed with delight the rising interest in natural miso in America and reported developments to the Japanese public.

Paralleling the revival of interest in traditional, natural misos was an interest in the ability of miso to promote long life and good health. One of the first publications in this area was the provocative Physical Constitution and Food (1964), written by Dr. Shinichiro Akizuki, a physician and hospital director in Nagasaki. He felt that miso had saved his life and that of his co-workers after the atomic blast at Nagasaki and that it could be used by anyone to help build a strong physical constitution. Other publications in this field included Kondo's Japanese Long-Life and Short-Life Villages (1972, showing a relationship between longevity and regular miso consumption), Morishita and co-workers' (1972 Ref??) investigations indicating that miso contained dipicolinic acid, which might protect the body from the effects of radioactivity, Iwadare's (1976) work on miso nutrition and healthful recipes, and Asahi Shimbun's 1981 report of Dr. Hirayama's 13-year research project showing that people who drink miso soup regularly have the lowest rates of stomach cancer in Japan. For details on the above, see Chapter 2 BOM??. Details on miso, aflatoxins, and nitrosamines are given at "US History," later.

During the 1960s, largely unnoticed in Japan, a major event in the history of Japanese miso was taking place; it was being transmitted to the West, largely by Japanese macrobiotic teachers. By the mid- to late 1960s, for the first time in history, large numbers of Caucasian Americans had begun to buy imported Japanese miso and use it in their cooking. A few Westerners began making miso, and more and more information about it began to appear, as described in the next section.

In Japan, by the early 1970s, a popular reaction had begun to set in against the processes of standardization and increased use of chemicals in traditional foods. People began to grow nostalgic for the taste of fine, natural miso and shoyu, and to speak out against the widespread use of preservatives, bleach, and other synthetic additives. In city apartments and communes, the tradition of preparing fine natural homemade miso began to be revived. Traditional miso and shoyu producers found that their products sold better if they advertised the fact that they were made from whole soybeans, fermented slowly at the natural temperature of the environment, and were free of chemical preservatives and other additives. In 1975 most larger producers stopped using chemical preservatives and switched instead to ethyl alcohol, a more natural preservative. Whereas in the 1960s traditional miso and shoyu were considered by many to be old-fashioned, today they are increasingly viewed as the highest quality fruits of Japan's ancient tradition of fine craftsmanship.

Starting in the late 1960s a flood of cookbooks featuring miso began to hit the market. Among the better ones were the Women's College of Nutrition's 1969 seasonal miso cookbook, Lima Ohsawa's Macrobiotic Cookery (1971, with many miso recipes), Shufu-no-tomo's 1972 Encyclopedia of Japanese Cookery , Tsuda and co-workers' 1972 Zen Temple Cookery , and Egami's 1975 Miso Soup and Miso Cookery --to mention but a few.

Ichiyama's extremely interesting, 804-page History of Kikkoman Shoyu (1968), throws a great deal of light on the history of miso and fermented foods in general in Japan. Tamura and Hirano's derivative 294-page The Book of Shoyu (1971) is more condensed, covering Ichiyama's key historical developments.

During the 1960s and 1970s dehydrated miso, both freeze-dried and spray dried, started to become quite popular in Japan, especially as the main ingredient in instant miso soups. First developed in 1959 by Ebine and Oguri (Ref??), some 10,000 to 15,000 tonnes were made each year during the 1970s; this was roughly 2.5 to 3.5% of Japan's total miso production. Of the dehydrated product in 1979, an estimated 80% was freeze dried and the remainder was spray dried. By the mid-1970s instant miso soup, sold in small packets, was widely available.

Another new variety of miso was low-salt (6.3% NaCl) or salt-free miso. Early reports on this subject were published by Sano (1960 Is it Sano 1961??), Kobatake et al. (1964), Ito et al. (1965), and Ebine (1966). Low-salt miso was introduced commercially during the mid-1960s in response to the concern over high Japanese salt consumption (30 gm per capita per day in northern Japan and 18 gm in the rest of Japan, compared with 11 gm in the United States) and the corresponding high rates of stroke and high blood pressure (hypertension). A campaign throughout Japan to reduce salt intake was almost surely a key factor in lowering the death rate from stroke from 175 per 100,000 people in the period 1963-70 down to 145 per 100,000 people in 1977, a 17% decrease. Low-salt miso had become extremely popular by 1979, when most of the large manufacturers began to reduce the percentage of salt in their basic misos by 10-25%. In 1980 standards had been set for three low-salt products: mild-salt ( usujio ) miso had 10-25% less salt than normal; low-salt ( gen-en ) miso had less than half of the normal amount of salt, and very-low-salt ( tei-en ) had less than 1 gram of salt per 100 grams of miso. Thus standard Japanese misos came to contain only 9-12% salt. Ethyl alcohol was typically added as a preservative.

In 1977 Nagano Miso Company was the first to introduce a salt-free miso; in 1978 it started to be marketed as Jepron, and in 1982 the name was changed to GOLD 'N RICH. The first patent on such a product was issued to Nagano Miso Co. on 28 May 1981 (Japanese Patent 1,048,853). By early 1983 Nagano Miso had applied for patents in nine countries; US Patent 4,311,715 had been granted. Nagano Miso Co. also introduced a low-salt miso in 1979. For more details, see Chapter 4 BOM??.

As of 1983, miso continued to be a basic part of the Japanese diet. An estimated 80-85% was used to make miso soup, with most of the rest used in sauces and simmered dishes, or as a topping for tofu. The three basic types of regular miso were rice miso, barley miso, and soybean miso. The six varieties of rice miso comprised about 81% of all regular miso made in Japan; the two varieties of barley miso comprised about 11%, and the two varieties of soybean miso comprised about 8%. There were also two types of special miso (Finger Lickin' and sweet simmered miso) and three varieties of modern miso (akadashi, dehydrated, and low-salt miso).

Starting in the mid-1970s, exports of miso from Japan began to increase steadily. In 1975 total miso exports were 828 tonnes, with the largest importers being the USA (459 tonnes, 25% of which was for the natural food trade), EEC/Europe (156 tonnes), Brazil (58 tonnes), and Canada (36 tonnes). The net value in Japan was $680,000. Natural foods exporters shipped 117 tonnes, Mitoku shipping 67 tonnes and Muso 40. Of this roughly 22 tonnes were Sendai red miso, 50 tonnes were barley miso, and 35 tonnes were Hatcho or soybean miso. By 1981 miso exports had increased dramatically (by 84%) to 1,524 tonnes. Of this 834 tonnes were exported to the US, 95 tonnes to Singapore, and 67 tonnes to the Netherlands, the three leading miso importing nations.


Miso has a surprisingly long history in Europe and the West. Miso was known to Europeans for almost 300 years before it was known in America. The earliest reference dates from the late 1500s, just before the beginning of the Edo period in Japan.

Early European References (1597-1899) . The earliest known reference to miso (or to any soyfood) by a European or Westerner appeared in 1597, when the Florentine Francisco Carletti, a most literate and observant traveler who was very interested in Japanese cookery, visited Nagasaki during a two-year stay in Japan and wrote in his memoirs (first published in Italian in 1701):

They prepare various sorts of dishes from fish, which they flavor with a certain sauce of theirs which they call misol. It is made of a sort of bean that abounds in various localities, and which cooked and mashed and mixed with a little of that rice from which they made the wine already mentioned, and then left to stand as packed in a tub--turns sour and all but decays, taking on a very sharp, piquant flavor. using this a little at a time, they give flavor to their foods . . . (Carletti, 1701, 1964; first cited by Hymowitz and Newell 1980).

The next reference to miso, which contained a much more detailed description of how it was made, was written in 1691-92 by Englebert Kaempfer, a brilliant self-educated German scientist and traveler who lived and traveled in Japan during these 2 years. His description, first published in Latin in his Amoenitatum Exoticarum in 1712 read:

To produce miso, one takes one measure of mame^?? or phaseolus daidsu which is cooked with water for a long time when brayed or ground and mixed into a soft pap. Under continued braying, common salt is added, in summer four parts, in winter three. If less salt is added, one gets the product quicker, but shelf life is shorter. After reducing is repeated, one mixes the pap with koos or dehulled rice, and mixes the total by repeated braying. This rice in preparation has been boiled a little in the steam of unsalted water. One lets the mixture cool down and remain in a warm cellar one or two days and nights to ripen.

This mixture, which has the texture of a pap or spread, is put into a bowl that has recently contained the popular sacki, a rice wine. Before using, one lets the bowl stand one or two months untouched.

Koos lends to the product an agreeable taste, and its production required like that of the Germans' "polenta," the experienced hand of the master. Those therefore who make it are held in high esteem, and they sell it ready made (Bening 1951).

Thereafter Kaempfer gave an equally detailed description of the shoyu making process. Prior to Kaempfer, numerous Western travelers had made mention of soyfoods (such as miso, tofu, and shoyu) but none of them had understood that these were made from soybeans. Through Kaempfer's description and illustration of the soybean and his descriptions of how miso and shoyu were made, the Western world first understood the relationship between soybeans and soyfoods.

In 1776 the Swedish doctor and botanist C.P. Thunberg mentioned miso in his famous Travels , which were published in English in 1795 and in French in 1796, based on his 14-month journey to Japan. In the chapter on "Japanese Foods" he wrote:

Three times a day, with each meal, the people eat miso soup prepared with fish and leeks. These miso closely resemble lentils. They are the small dolic beans of Japan. [Thunberg apparently thought soybeans were called "miso."] Miso or soy sauce constitutes the principal food of the Japanese. People of all levels, great or small, rich or poor, eat them several times a day, year-round.

He then described the method for making shoyu.

In 1785?? the German Charles Bryant discussed miso, apparently thinking that it was used as the basis for making soy sauce. Although some of his terminology was adapted from Kaempfer (1712), his observations were apparently original, although not very detailed or accurate:

The sauces prepared from miso are known under the name of `Sooju or Soy.' The preparation of miso is rather complicated. A mass of soybeans are cooked in water until they become completely soft. These are then pounded several times with the addition of an approximately equal quantity of salt. This mass is mixed with a rice preparation called Roos (koji). It is filled into a wooden vat and allowed to stand for several months. it is used in place of butter.

He noted that the preparation of koji was a secret known to only a few people, who sold it in the streets to miso makers (cited in Senft 1907).

The earliest reference to Chinese jiang in Europe was in 1855 in a letter from Stanislas Julien to the Society for Acclimatization in Paris. In discussing soyfoods, he mentioned in passing that "They also make tsiang (jiang), a sort of seasoning sauce."

When Japan began to introduce European scientific techniques during the Meiji period (1868-1912), one of the first areas of food research was the koji mold. The history of this early research and identification of the mold, Aspergillus oryzae , is described earlier, at Chapter 8, Japan. Pioneering researchers included Hoffmann (1874), Korschelt (1878), Ahlburg (1878), Atkinson (1878, 1881), Cohn (1884), Kellner (1889, 1895), and Wehmer (1895, 1901). The word koji was first mentioned by a Western scientist in 1878.

The most detailed early description of the process for preparing koji and koji starter was given in 1878 by the German Korschelt. He noted that all koji for sake was made only during the period from November to February. The steamed rice was inoculated with koji starter ( tane^?? koji ) in the form of a fine yellow powder made by the koji maker, wrapped in straw mats, and incubated for 3 days in an underground chamber. On the evening of the third day it was put into wooden koji trays and incubated, with occasional mixing, until the morning of the fifth day. The koji starter was made at the end of the koji season using as a substrate a mixture of rice and wood ash. After a 7-10-day fermentation, in the same room with the koji, the trays were inverted and the spores tapped off on clean paper, then stored in a sealed crock until the next year.

In 1880 Paillieux of the Society for Acclimatization in France noted that the soybean "lends itself particularly well to the preparation of a puree, resembling puree peas. . . According to my experience, one could also mix this paste, which the Japanese call miso, with other ingredients to keep them over the winter in barrels, for use in provisioning ships, etc." Paillieux had apparently tasted miso and conceived of miso pickles (vegetables pickled in miso), long popular in East Asia.

In 1882 Prof. Edward Kinch of Cirencester, England, published the first chemical/nutritional analysis of miso; figures were given for both red miso and white miso. It is not known how he obtained this information.

The first European to publish a detailed scientific study of miso was the German Dr. Oscar Kellner (1851-1911; see also Chapter 12, at Germany). One of the great pioneers of German agricultural chemistry (along with Liebig and Hellriegel), Kellner accepted an invitation in 1880 to teach his specialty at Tokyo Imperial University. He stayed in Japan for 12 years, married a Japanese woman, and helped lay the foundations of agricultural chemistry and animal nutrition in Japan (Breirem 1952). In 1889 he and Japanese co-workers Mori and Nagaoka published "Researches on the Manufacture, Composition and Properties of Koji," which contained a chemical analysis of koji and noted that "The ferment of koji transfers gelatinized starch into maltose and dextrose, and also converts maltose to dextrose. It has strong diastatic properties." Also in 1889 Kellner, Nagaoka, and Kurashima wrote their classic "Researches on the Manufacture and Composition of `Miso.'" Both these studies were in English. The latter 24-page work discussed miso's history, raw materials, manufacture, chemical changes during fermentation, and numerous miso varieties. It also contained chemical/nutritional analyses of four types of miso, whose fermentation time Kellner reported varied from as little as 3-4 days up to 1 or 1 1/2 years. The various types of miso discussed by Kellner included Shiro Miso, Yedo Miso, Inaka Miso, Sendai Miso, Kinzanji Miso, Sakura Miso, Tekka Miso, and Kogo Miso. Kellner even discussed miso's early history:

The Sandai Jitsuroku, one of the oldest Japanese records, tells us that a Chinese priest named Jingo transmitted more than 1000 years ago a small quantity of miso to the then emperor of Japan . . . And the name `Korei Shiwo' sometimes, though not frequently used instead of the word `miso,' points to its introduction from Korea.

This remarkably detailed study is still one of the best ever published by a Westerner. It was long the main source of information for other Western articles on miso. Kellner continued his publications on miso with excellent articles in German, "Die Bereitung von Miso in Japan" ("The Preparation of Miso in Japan", 1895, in response to an enquiry that year), and "Ueber die Bereitung von Sake, Shoyu, und Miso" ("On the Preparation of Sake, Shoyu, and Miso," 1895).

Also in 1886 and 1899 the German Rein gave brief descriptions of miso and its production, with an analysis of its nutritional composition done by the College of Agriculture at Komaba, Tokyo. He said that miso "is said to be at its best when three years old."

Bretschneider (1893) cited numerous references to jiang in early Chinese literature.

The first descriptions of Indonesian miso-like foods ( taucho or tao tsioe and tao tjiung ) were given by Prinsen Geerligs, in Dutch in 1895 and in German in 1896. Both articles included nutritional analyses.

Prior to 1897 Europe's first commercial miso started to be manufactured in Switzerland. In 1897 the American Langworthy (using data from an unknown source) published a nutritional analysis of this miso; it must have been a dried product since it contained only 12.5% moisture (versus 48-50% for traditional Japanese misos), plus 26.4% protein and 13.9% fat. Langworthy also mentioned that numerous East Asian soyfoods had been made in Switzerland but, again, unfortunately, he did not cite the source of his information. In 1907 Senft of Germany stated, "Recently the firm Jul. Maggi & Co. in Kempthal (Switzerland) has begun to make and market a type of miso." Maggi was also the first company in Europe to develop hydrolyzed vegetable protein (HVP), from which they are said to have made a type of unfermented soy sauce.

1900-1949 . Senft (1907) in Germany called miso a "vegetable cheese" and described its preparation and composition, using information from Kellner. He also gave the first report on miso pickles ( misozuke ^??) then noted, as mentioned above, that Maggi in Switzerland had begun to make and market miso.

In 1910, Li Yu-ying, the Chinese soyfoods pioneer in Paris, discussed Chinese jiang in his book Soybeans . In 1912, in French, Li and Grandvoinnet discussed Chinese jiang and Vietnamese tuong , based on the work of Bui (1905). Englishman Shaw (1911) in Manchuria described the manufacture of two types of Chinese jiang and reported that 54% of all soybeans consumed in Japan were used to make miso. In 1914 Winkler gave a description of miso making. Then in 1917 Fuerstenberg repeated information about miso from Kellner and Winkler. He, too, called miso a "vegetable cheese." Surprisingly, after Fuerstenberg, there was no reference to miso or jiang in scientific literature in Europe for over 40 years??

1950-1982 . The late 1950s saw a rebirth of interest in miso in Europe. The person responsible for this was a remarkable Japanese gentleman named George Ohsawa, whose life and work are discussed in Chapter 67 and later at USA. He began teaching a little about miso during his first stay in France from 1929-1935, then again more seriously and to a growing audience from 1956 (Kotzsch 1981). As a result of his teachings about macrobiotics and Japanese natural foods, the first commercial miso company since Maggi in the early 1900s was started by the Gevaert family in Belgium in 1959. They continued to make traditional, natural barley miso from 1959 until 1966, then re-started in January 1981. In late 1981 they were making 1,200 kg a month of barley miso at plants in France and Belgium. The French miso plant was powered by hydropower. The macrobiotic community in Europe has continued to be the pioneering force in introducing, distributing, teaching about and using miso. By 1975 the European Economic Community (EEC) was importing 156 metric tons (tonnes) of miso from Japan; England, the largest importer, was importing 28 tonnes. By 1981 EEC miso imports from Japan had jumped to 230.7 tonnes; the leading importing nations were the Netherlands (67.8 tonnes), England (40.4 tonnes), West Germany (40.0 tonnes), and France (28.0 tonnes). Much of this miso was especially made in Japan using traditional, natural methods for the European natural-food and macrobiotic markets. Also in 1981 there were five miso plants in Europe; four in France and one in Belgium. In July 1980 The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi was published in Germany as Das Miso Buch ; by December 1983 some 3,800 copies had been sold. For the first time in European history, largely because of macrobiotic influence but also because of immigration from and travel to East Asia, Europeans were beginning to use and enjoy miso.

Starting in the late 1970s, the Department of Microbiology at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland began to do research on miso. Dr. Brian Wood, his students F.M. Yong (from Singapore) and Sumbo Abiose (a woman from Africa), and co-workers published numerous scientific papers on miso in prestigious journals (Wood and Yong 1975, Wood 1977, 1981, 1982). Abiose's 1980 PhD dissertation, titled Studies on Miso Fermentation , and the subsequent "Microbiology and Biochemistry of Miso (Soy Paste) Fermentation" (Abiose, Allan, and Wood 1982) were two of the best reviews of the literature of these subjects published to date.


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