How Japanese and Japanese-Americans Brought Soyfoods to the United States and the Hawaiian Islands - A History (1851-2011)
William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-37-2
Publication Date: 2011 July 11
Number of References in Bibliography: 1259
Earliest Reference: 1851
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How Japanese and Japanese-Americans Brought Soyfoods to the United States and the Hawaiian Islands – A History (1851-2011)
Almost all of the earliest known companies making soyfoods in the United States were started by people of Japanese ancestry - most of them in small communities in California, the Hawaiian Islands, Oregon and Washington.
How do we know all this? Largely because of two remarkable public directories published in San Francisco by the Nichibei Shinbun-sha (Japanese American News Inc.). The first, published from 1905 to 1916, was titled Zaibei Nihonjin Nenkan, retitled Nichi-Bei Nenkan in 1909 (Japanese-American Yearbook). The second, published from 1919 to 1941, was titled Nichibei Jūshoroku (The Japanese American Directory).
There is, unfortunately, no known corresponding directory listing Chinese businesses in the United States – until about the 1930s (Dr. Ming Sun Poon, 2008, Library of Congress; and search of OCLC / WorldCat database). Nevertheless, people of Chinese ancestry have made an immense contribution to bringing soyfoods to the United States and the Hawaiian Islands.
A note about pronunciation of Chinese / Japanese characters. Most characters can be pronounced in more than one way. Thus, when the name of a Japanese company or person is listed in the Yearbooks or Directories in characters only, without romanization (i.e., not written in roman letters / English), Akiko has had to guess at the pronunciation. When more than one pronunciation appears in this book, the first one is more likely to be correct than the second one, etc. – based on Akiko’s knowledge of Japanese as a native speaker.
1851 March – Shipwrecked Japanese, picked up in the barque Auckland, then quarantined off San Francisco, bring the first soybeans to California; they give them in gratitude to Dr. Benjamin Franklin Edward, who takes them to Illinois and to the Midwest (Evening Picayune, March 5, p. 2; Hymowitz 1987, p. 28-32).
1868 – The first Japanese arrive in the Hawaiian Islands on the ship Scioto (Saioto-go), bringing shoyu and miso with them. It is Meiji 1 – the first year of the Meiji period, a period of awakening, expansion, and opening to the outside world after 268 years of peaceful isolation during the Edo (Tokugawa) period.
1868 – The Japanese population of the United States (not including Hawaii, which was annexed to the USA in 1898 and became a state in Aug. 1959) is six – the earliest known statistic.
1879 – Saheiji Mogi, of Noda, Japan, registers Kikkoman, his family’s pride and flagship brand of shoyu (Japanese-style soy sauce), as a brand name in California – six years before it is granted the same legal protection in Japan. He is soon exporting small wooden kegs, bound with bamboo hoops (18 liters or 4.76 gallons capacity) of Kikkoman shoyu to California and the Western United States where it is prized by the growing number of Japanese immigrants (Fruin 1983, p. 59-60).
1891 – The earliest known manufacturer of shoyu in Hawaii or the United States is started in Honolulu, Oahu, by Jihachi Shimada; the company name and brand name are unknown. The company closed soon after it started.
1897 – Yamamori Jozo-sho (Yamamori Brewery) starts to make Yamamori Shoyu (soy sauce) in San Jose, California. It is the first company to make soy sauce in the continental United States.
1897 – The Japanese population of the United States is estimated to be 13,000. After Hawaii was forcibly annexed by the United States in 1898, the Japanese population in the continental USA rose to an estimated 35,000 in 1899 and 53,764 in 1904. Hawaii served as a sort of stepping stone for many, making it easier to get to the continental USA.
1905 – Sugita Jozo-sho (Sugita Brewery) is now making Sugita Shoyu in San Jose, California. It is the second company to make soy sauce in the continental United States, and also in San Jose!
1905 – Yamajo Soy Co. (Yamajo Shoyu Seizo-sho) starts to make shoyu in Honolulu, Oahu. Established by Mr. Nobuyuki Yamakami, it is the first successful shoyu manufacturer in Hawaii. By 1909 it was renamed Hawaiian Soy Co. Ltd. (Hawaii Shoyu K.K.).
1905 – There are 6 Japanese tofu shops in the United States; 2 in Los Angeles, and 1 each in San Francisco, Sacramento, San Jose, and Isleton - all in California.
1906 – The first Japanese tofu shop in Washington state is in operation (in Seattle).
1907 – Miso is first made commercially in the continental United States by Yamane Miso, Sakana Sho in Sacramento, California. The next four commercial miso makers in the continental USA all started in California, owned and operated by Japanese. 1908 – Sanyo Shokai, in Melrose (near Alameda); 1913 – Marumi Miso Seizo-sho, in Los Angeles; 1917 – Fujimoto Co., in San Francisco (Brand: Kanemasa Miso). 1919 – Norio Co., in San Francisco (Type: Shiro miso = Sweet white miso).
1908 – Miso is first made commercially in Hawaii by the Hawaiian Yamajo Soy Company of Honolulu.
1907 – The first Japanese tofu shop in Utah is in operation (in Ogden).
1908 – The first Japanese tofu shop in Nevada is in operation (in Reno).
1908 – The Japanese population of the United States rises to a peak of 103,683.
1909 – Sanyo Shoyu Jozo Gaisha starts making soy sauce in Portland, Oregon – the state’s first shoyu manufacturer. By 1913 the company had been renamed Sanyo Shoyu Jozo-sho.
1909 – The Japanese-American Yearbook (No. 5, p. 69) states: The value of the 1900 soybean crop in the United States is $7,634,262 and the value in California is $1,022,586. Note: This is the earliest document seen (July 2011) that gives soybean production or area statistics for either the USA or California – earlier than any U.S. Department of Agriculture statistics. Unfortunately, the source of these statistics is not given.
1910 – 2.88 million gallons of Kikkoman soy sauce are now exported from Japan, the principal destinations being Honolulu, Portland, San Francisco, Tacoma, Denver, and Chicago.
1909 early – At a time of anti-Japanese sentiment in California, stirred up by leaders of the labor movement, the California legislature “approved an appropriation of $10,000 to be utilized for investigating the conditions of Japanese in that state.” The investigation was directed by John D. Mackenzie, Commissioner, California Bureau of Labor Statistics. Work was begun on April 15, 1909, with the appointment of nine special agents – all white. No Japanese were employed in any capacity. The surveyors went to every part of California where Japanese believed to live, and eventually surveyed an estimated 95% of the Japanese in California. Most Japanese welcomed the surveyors and responded accurately and in detail on forms which were printed in both Japanese and English. A very high percentage of the forms were returned by mail to the survey headquarters.
1910 early – Mr. Mackenzie submits to the governor of California his 78-page report titled Labor Laws of California: First Special Report of the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It praises Japanese and concludes that the Japanese population is making an important contribution to the state (Mackenzie 1909; California Bureau of Labor Statistics 1910; K. Kawakami 1912, p. 343-44). The 1911 Nichi-Bei Nenkan (Japanese-American Yearbook), subsequent Yearbooks, and the Nichi-Bei newspaper in San Francisco, all seem to have benefitted greatly from the Report and the work of the Commission, in part by the addition of many new and interesting statistics – but we have never been able to find out exactly how. The Report itself, unfortunately, no longer exists.
1910 – The Japanese population of the top 8 U.S. states is: California 55,901, Washington state 16,930. Colorado 4,557. Oregon 3,873. Utah 2,529. Idaho 2,399. New York 2,260. Wyoming 1,409. About 90% of these people are men (adult males).
1910 – The value of miso and shoyu imported from Japan to San Francisco tops $100,000.
1910 late – At least 65 Japanese tofu shops have been established in the continental United States; none in the Hawaiian Islands. Some are no longer in business.
1911 – The Japanese-American Yearbook (No. 7, p. 54, in a table) states that in 1911 some 2,785,516 bushels of soybeans were produced in the entire USA worth $7,767,702. Note: Again, the source of these statistics is not given. These are very early statistics on soybean production in the United States – earlier than any known USDA statistics. Moreover: A table of U.S. imports and exports from Japan (p. 74) shows that $109,316 worth of miso and shoyu were imported to the USA; they were considered dutiable items, with a 40% duty levied on each (part 2, p. 23).
1911 – Ohta Tofu-ten (Ota Tofu Co.) is now making tofu at 266 Davis St., Portland, Oregon. The owner is Saizō Ota.
1911 – The first Japanese tofu shop in New York is in operation (in Brooklyn).
1913 – The first Japanese tofu shop in Idaho is in operation (in Sugar City).
1913 – Japanese population in the top East Coast states: New York: 2,209. New Jersey 277. Massachusetts 230. Pennsylvania 223. Florida 89. Washington, DC 54. Rhode Island 41. Maryland 29. About 95% of these are males.
1917 Dec. – Eight Mogi and Takanashi family companies, the leading shoyu producers in the Noda area of Japan, merge to form Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd., a company with capital of ¥7 million and the predecessor of Kikkoman Corporation.
1919 Jan. 1 – The first issue of the annual Nichi-Bei Jushoroku (The Japanese American Directory) appears, replacing the Nichi-Bei Nenkan (Japanese American Yearbook – which was first published (under a different title) in 1905.
1919 Jan. – Tomoe Tofu-ya (Tomoe Tofu Co.) is now making tofu at 324 Jackson St., Los Angeles, California. It was later acquired by Matsuda Tofu Co.
1920 Jan. 1 – Yamaizumi Miso Seizo-sho is making sweet white miso, fresh koji, and dried koji at 1436 Cahuenga Ave., Los Angeles, California. In 1975 this company was acquired by Miyako Oriental Foods of Los Angeles.
1920 – At least 166 Japanese tofu shops have been started in the USA and Hawaii. Some are no longer in business.
1923 – H. Iwanaga is now making tofu at Rear 1031 Aala, Honolulu, Hawaii. He is the earliest known tofu maker in the Hawaiian Islands (one of 3, the other two being Yazaemon Ono and Yasuzu Tanouye – also in Honolulu). The company (H. Iwanaga Daufu) was purchased twice by Shoshiro Kanehori and Mrs. Haruko Uyeda; it was finally purchased in 1939 by Mr. and Mrs. Shokin Yamauchi, and later renamed Aala Tofu Co. It is thus the earliest known Hawaiian ancestor of Hinode Tofu Co., which became America's largest tofu manufacturer, run by Mr. Shoan Yamauchi.
1924 - Oriental Show-You Company begins production of Japanese-style fermented soy sauce in Columbia City, Indiana.
1930 – Azumaya Tofu Seizo-sho (Azumaya Co.) is now making tofu at 1636 Post Street, San Francisco, California. The company existed as early as 1922 as a maker of Japanese pickles. Azumaya may have started making tofu several years before 1930; we have been unable the examine Japanese directories from 1926-1929.
1930 – At least 293 Japanese tofu shops have been established in the United States and Hawaii. Some are no longer in business.
1934 Jan. – Matsuda Tofu-ten (Matsuda Tofu Co.) is now making tofu at 2844 East 1st St., Los Angeles, California.
1939 – Mr. Shoan Yamauchi starts making tofu at Rear 1031 Aala, Honolulu, Hawaii. By 1955 the company had been renamed Aala Tofu Factory.
1940 – At least 392 Japanese tofu shops have been started the United States and Hawaii. Some are no longer in business.
1941 late – By food: As of late this year, 537 different Japanese-owned companies in the United States and the Hawaiian Islands have made soyfoods. Of these, 418 (78% of the total) have made tofu, 62 have made miso, 57 have made shoyu (soy sauce), and 4 have made natto. Five of these companies have made more than one soyfood product. Many of these companies are no longer in business.
1941 late – By state: As of late this year, 311 of these 537 companies have operated in California (58% of the total), 156 in Hawaii, 22 in Washington state, 15 in Utah, 10 in Oregon, and 4 in Idaho.
1941 Dec. 7 – Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. Life suddenly becomes much more difficult for Japanese and Japanese-Americans living in the United States.
1942 Feb. 19 – Executive Order 9066 is signed by President Franklin Dr. Roosevelt. Basically all Japanese and Japanese-Americans living in the western USA (west of the Rocky Mountains) are sent to harsh internment camps, where they are kept behind barbed wire during World War II until late 1944 – when the entire operation is ruled unconstitutional by the United States Supreme Court. All Japanese-owned companies making soyfoods in the Western USA cease operations and most are no longer there when their owners return home after World War II. The owners must start all over to rebuild their businesses.
1942 – Showa Shoyu Brewing Co. (Glendale, Arizona) starts making Marusho Shoyu. The company is owned and run by Takeshi Tadano and his son, John Tadano. Actual bottles of this soy sauce still exist.
1943-1944 – At the ten Internment camps housing Japanese and Japanese-Americans during World War II, tofu was made at eight (starting at Poston in Jan. 1943; 4,000 cakes a month); miso was made at three (starting at Jerome in Sept. 1943; 1,000 lb/week), HVP shoyu was made at one (Manzanar, starting in Nov. 1942; 1,000 to 5,000 gallons a month), and soymilk was made at one (Poston, starting in Dec. 1943).
1946 – Tomoe Tofu-ya (Tomoe Tofu Co.) in Los Angeles is acquired by Matsuda Tofu Co. for $8,000 (Interview with Shoan Yamauchi, 1982).
1947 March – Hinode Tofu Seizo-sho (Hinode Tofu Co.) starts making Hinode Tofu (Japanese-style Soft, and Chinese-style Firm) at 706 E. Sixth St., Los Angeles. The company was started by the former owners of Tomoe Tofu Co. (Mr. Tomoe and probably a partner).
1950 – At least 425 Japanese tofu shops have been started the United States and Hawaii. Some are no longer in business
1957 June – Kikkoman International Inc. (KII) is established in San Francisco, California, in the United States.
1950s mid – Before Kikkoman entered the U.S. market, soy sauce was sold strictly as a seasoning for Oriental foods. But starting in the mid-1950s. Kikkoman began to take a new approach, marketing its savory sauce as both all-purpose and all-American, using attractive (and expensive) television and color print media ads with American-style recipes featuring meat, fish, and poultry.
1958 – The first KII branch is established in Los Angeles.
1963 – Matsuda-Hinode Tofu Mfg. Co. is now making tofu in Los Angeles. It is the biggest tofu maker in the Western United States. In 1964 the company established three milestones: (1) It became the first company on the West Coast (and perhaps in the world) to package tofu; (2) It became the first U.S. company to get tofu into a supermarket chain (Boy's Market in Los Angeles); and (3) It became the first U.S. company to make natto. In 1969 the company built and moved into a new location at 526 S. Stanford Ave.
1964 October – Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd., is renamed Kikkoman Shoyu Co., Ltd.
1966 April 12 – Erewhon opens as a small macrobiotic and natural foods retail store in Boston, Massachusetts. Aveline and Michio Kushi, Japanese teachers of macrobiotics, are the founders. Over the next several decades the macrobiotic movement nationwide does more than any other group or company to introduce Americans to miso and (after Kikkoman) to shoyu, and to a lesser extent to tempeh, tofu, natto, and soymilk.
1966 July 30 – Mutual Trading Co. (under president Noritoshi Kanai) imports its first 2 cases of edamamé (green vegetable soybean in the pod) from Japan. On 1 July 1970 edamamé first appeared in Mutual’s restaurant catalog. As Mutual Trading Co. was introducing authentic sushi, made in Japanese restaurants by a sushi master, it introduced edamamé as a side dish for the sushi. Americans loved both.
1968 – Bottling of Kikkoman Soy Sauce for the American market begins at the Leslie Foods plant in Oakland, California.
1968 July 1 – The Immigration and Nationality Act of 1965 (Hart-Celler Act, signed into law Oct. 3, 1965, by President Lyndon Jonson), becomes law. A new era in Asian immigration to the United States begins.
1972 March – Kikkoman Foods, Inc. (KFI), is established in Walworth, Wisconsin (USA) for the purpose of manufacturing soy sauce and teriyaki sauce.
1973 June – Kikkoman’s sparkling new plant in Walworth, Wisconsin, with a capacity of 10 million liters (2.6 million gallons) a year begins operations – making Japanese-style shoyu and teriyaki sauce. The plant cost about $6-10 million to build and initially employed about 100 people.
1976 – Kikkoman passes La Choy (a nonfermented HVP soy sauce made by Beatrice Foods) to become America’s best-selling soy sauce. In 1971 Kikkoman had passed Chun King (an HVP soy sauce made by Del Monte’s RJR Foods) to become No. 2.
1976 Jan. 21 – Miyako Oriental Foods is founded; operations began on June 1. Noritoshi Kanai is president. Teruo Shimizu is factory manager. Miyako (at 404 Towne Ave., Los Angeles), a division of Yamajirushi Miso Co. in Japan, is now making Yamajirushi (Shinshu type) Miso, Kanemasa Miso, Yamaizumi Miso, Aka Miso, and Koji Miso.
1977 July. – Takai Tofu & Soymilk Equipment Co. introduces its “Takai Catalog of Small and Medium-Sized Equipment” – the first such catalog in English. This makes it much easier for Americans to order the equipment they need to start their own companies making tofu on a commercial scale. Bean Machines Inc. is founded in California to import Takai equipment. A “Takai Catalog of Large-scale Equipment” appeared in Feb. 1979.
1977 – Morinaga Milk Industry Co. (of Tokyo, Japan) starts to sell Morinaga brand Tofu: Soybean Curd in the United States in an innovative new long-life aseptically packaged Tetra Brik carton. This “Kinugoshi tofu” product was developed for the American market.
1978 April – Morinaga’s product is re-introduced with a new name (Morinaga Silken Tofu) and new package design and a recipe for “Creamy Tofu Dressing” on the package. This is the first use of the term “silken tofu” on a commercial tofu product. The product is also sold with a new recipe booklet. Over the next two decades Morinaga plays a major role in introducing tofu to the USA with handsome color print ads, a “Healthy Life” newsletter, and many promotional and outreach activities.
1978 May – Miyako Oriental Foods (at 404 Towne Ave.) launches Cold Mountain Firm Granular Koji, with a leaflet for using it to make homemade red miso, homemade sweet white miso, and amazake.
1980 Sept. – America’s sushi boom begins in California when the very popular TV miniseries and epic drama Shogun, based on the novel by James Clavell, sparks a great interest in traditional Japanese culture (including food culture) among Americans. They flock to sushi bars and drink Japanese beer and saké. But, true to tradition, Japanese restaurants serve edamamé, free of charge, with the beer. "It was a mass sampling of the edamamé without people having ordered it! So the success of sushi, Japanese
beers, Japanese saké, and edamamé, are all tied in together" (Interview with Atsuko Kanai, June 2001).
1982 Sept. 24 – Open house at Miyako Oriental Foods new and expanded, 20,000-square-foot miso factory at 4287 Puente Ave., Baldwin Park, California.
1983 – House Food Industrial Co., Ltd. of Japan purchases 50% ownership in Yamauchi Enterprises (formerly Hinode Tofu Co., owned by Mr. Shoan Yamauchi) in Los Angeles. The company is renamed House Foods & Yamauchi, Inc.
1985 Oct. – Morinaga Nutritional Foods opens its first office in the United States, in Los Angeles. Prior to 1985. Mori-Nu was distributed by Mutual Trading Co. of Los Angeles, with sales targeted to the Asian market. After this opening, sales of Mori-Nu Tofu increased from 60,000 to 400,000 cases in less than four years. Each case contains 25 x 10.5 oz. packs of tofu.
1985 – This year Morinaga sells 4.8 million cakes of tofu to 32 countries worldwide.
1987 Sept. 24 – San J International, the American subsidiary of San Jirushi Co. in Japan, dedicates the first tamari brewery outside of Japan – in Richmond, Virginia.
1993 – Azumaya Inc., America’s largest tofu manufacturer and the low-price leader, is purchased by Vitasoy of Hong Kong.
1993 – House Foods Corporation of Osaka, Japan purchases the remaining 50% of House Foods & Yamauchi, Inc. from Mr. Shoan Yamauchi. The new company is renamed House Foods America Corporation.
1990 July 2 – Niichi Co. breaks ground for its new MicroSoy Flakes production plant in Jefferson, Iowa. The plant will have a capacity of 6 tons/hour of edible soy flakes, using in making tofu, etc.
1992 – Yamasa, the world’s second largest manufacturer of soy sauce (after Kikkoman) sells 1.3 million gallons of soy sauce to the United States, all of it imported (Ritchie 1994, p. 33). But, since 1973, the Japanese yen has appreciated dramatically, making the cost of exports almost prohibitive (Kevin 1994, p. 31).
1994 May 27 – Tak Kimura, a food broker representing Yamato Flight Kitchen, sells his first package of edamamé (green vegetable soybeans in the pod) at Whole Foods Market in Berkeley, California. He is soon demoing edamamé at natural food stores, upscale supermarkets, and major chain stores (Costco) in California. A real pioneer, he has earned the name “Mr. Edamamé.”
1994 Aug. – Yamasa Corporation starts making shoyu at its new 65,000-square-foot plant in Salem, Oregon. In April 1995 the first soy sauce will be ready to ship. When fully operational, the new plant will be able to produce 1.7 million gallons per year (Okamoto 1994).
1996 Aug. 10-11 – First Annual L.A. Tofu Festival is organized by Little Tokyo Service Center as a fundraiser. House Foods Corporation (Hinoichi Tofu) is the main sponsor. More than 30,000 people attended the seventh festival in 2002. It was held for one weekend every summer until 2007, but was replaced in 2008 by “La Vida Sake,” a saké and food tasting event.
1997 March 4 - Morinaga Nutritional Foods' new
tofu plant in Tualatin, Oregon, holds its official grand opening. Mori-Nu Tofu, previously made in Japan, starts to be made in America for the first time. The plant, 65,000 square feet worth about $15 million, is on the same property as Pacific Foods of Oregon, but in a separate building.
1997 March 12 – House Foods America Corporation holds a ceremony to mark the completion of America’s largest, state-of-the-art tofu factory in Garden Grove, California. This new, much larger and more modern plant, has three fully automated tofu production lines. The 130,000-square-foot plant cost $21 million and will more than double the company’s tofu production capacity – to 150,000 cakes/day of tofu vs. 70,000 in the old plant. Production will start in April.
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