History of Miso and Soybean Chiang - Page 4

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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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

Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4


Early Developments (1896-1929) . The earliest known reference to miso in the US was by Trimble in 1896. In an article titled "Recent Literature on the Soja Bean" in the American Journal of Pharmacy , he gave a detailed and accurate account of miso, based on three earlier publications by Kellner and co-workers. Trimble write a similar account in 1897. Also in 1897 in "Soy Beans as Food for Man," Langworthy mentioned miso briefly and published a collection of earlier nutritional analyses of red, white, and Swiss misos; he did not cite the source of his information. These nutritional analyses were also reprinted by Abel of the USDA in 1900.

During the period from 1900 until the early 1960s, virtually no important research and very few original publications related to miso appeared in the United States (or in Europe). The various reports from Japan written in English by Oshima (1905), Takahashi and Abe (1913), and Akaghi et al. (1915) were presumably read by a few interested Americas. Piper and Morse (1916) referred briefly to miso, calling it a "soybean cheese," apparently after Sawa (1902) or Senft (1907). Piper and Morse (1923) gave four pages of information on miso from earlier sources, plus three excellent photographs showing miso manufacture in Japan, the first such photographs published in the West. In 1927 Horvath summarized much of the earlier research on miso and mentioned jiang tofu, made in China by pickling tofu in jiang; it resembled a sharp cheese and could be used in the West in sandwiches.

[Starting in the early 1920s pioneering research on the Aspergillus molds was done by Dr. Charles Thom and Dr. Margaret Church, both of the Microbiological Laboratory of the USDA Bureau of Chemistry. Thom, one of America's foremost early mycologists, worked for the USDA from 1904 to 1942; in 1904 he started what later became the USDA culture collection, now housed at Peoria, Illinois. In 1921 Thom and Church wrote " Aspergillus Flavus, A. oryzae , and Associated Species," in which passing mention was made of miso, shoyu, and tamari shoyu. In 1923 Church wrote "Soy and Related Fermentations," which focused on Japanese shoyu but gave a short description of miso production and referred to the miso mold as Aspergillus flavus oryzae . Thom and Church's research culminated?? in 1926 with the publication of their classic 272-page monograph The Aspergilli . This was expanded by Thom's co-worker Kenneth Raper into Manual of the Aspergilli (1945), then by Raper and Fennell in 1965 into The Genus Aspergillus . The work of Thom and Church laid the foundation for much of the important work on miso done at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center in Peoria, Illinois, starting in 1959. Thom's culture collection, transferred to Peoria in about 1940, was the largest such collection in the world by 1983, containing some 55,000?? cultures . . . including those used for miso, shoyu, tempeh, and other fermented soyfoods.]

In the early 1900s exports of miso from Japan (mostly to the West) began to increase, rising from 2.2 million pounds (1,000 tonnes) worth $34,647 in 1903 to 6.9 million pounds (3,130 tonnes) worth $135,800 in 1907 (Piper and Morse 1923). By 1930 some 308,104 pounds (140 tonnes) of Japanese miso were being imported to Honolulu. These foreign markets began to attract Japanese miso makers.

According to Wilcox (1909), miso was being made in Hawaii by 1908 (or was it 1900??) and most of the soybeans were imported from Japan. The leading (and perhaps only) manufacturer was the Hawaiian Soy Company, with Mr. M. Yamakami as manager. They probably also made soy sauce (Krauss 1911). By 1911 the manufacture of both miso and soy sauce was being rapidly extended in Hawaii, which was then a US Territory; it was annexed in 1911 and became a state in 1959. The next miso maker in Hawaii, the Kanda Miso Factory, was started in Honolulu in 1920 by Mr. Takejiro Kanda, and in 1921 the Takei Miso Factory was started on Maui by Mr. Shuji Takei. Other early Honolulu miso manufacturers were Ueno Miso Factory (1920s), Fukuda Miso Factory (1920s).

The earliest known miso plant in the United States, the Fujimoto Miso Company, founded by Mr. Genpei Fujimoto, began operation in San Francisco in 1917. During World War II, about 1943 or 1944, because of the Japanese evacuation, the company was shut down and moved to 302 South Fourth West, Salt lake City, Utah. It was re-established after the war by the son of the founder, Edward Kanta Fujimoto, and his wife Shizue. Edward died in 1958 and Mrs. Fujimoto continued to run the business until 1976, when she sold her equipment and the Kanemasa brand to Miyako Oriental Foods, which was established that year in Los Angeles.

The next commercial miso plant in the US was the Norio Company, started in 1919 in San Francisco at 1531 Geary St. by Mr. Masaichi Norio; he made only shiro miso (probably sweet white, mellow white, or light yellow miso) and exported most of it to Hawaii. In about 1932 the company was moved to 1532 Post St., where it was run by relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Minoru Arikawa and son. The US government forced the family to close the business (then making about 82 tonnes of miso a year) when World War II started in 1941. They resumed after the war but retired in 1972 and the business was closed to make room for construction of a high-rise condominium (B.W. 1971; Arikawa 1982, personal communication).

According to George Tsuchiya, manager of T. Amano Co., there were several semicommercial makers of miso and shoyu in Canada, in the Vancouver area, prior to World War I, and at least one commercial miso manufacturer was in the area prior to 1927. In that year, Mr. T. Amano, who descended from a family that made commercial miso and shoyu in Hiroshima, started a company called Amano Brothers on East Powell Street in Vancouver. He made his first miso in 1927 and his first shoyu in 1931. In 1982 the T. Amano company was making a red miso and a sweet white miso, as well as a fermented shoyu.

Sometime between 1927 and 1932 the Tsuruda Miso Company was started in San Jose, California, by Mr. and Mrs. Tsuruda; it was shut down during World War II and never resumed. During the 1930s the Yamaizumi Co. started making miso in Los Angeles, under the direction of a craftsman from Fukuoka in Japan. During the 1970s, business declined and in 1976 they and their brand Yamaizumi were purchased by Miyako Oriental Foods??

1930-1959 . When William Morse visited East Asia from 1929 to 1931 he wrote a lot about Japanese miso in his journals and included numerous photographs (Dorsett and Miso 1928-31). He mentioned that Hatcho miso was then aged for 20 months and had been made in the same Hayakawa Kyuemon plant for about 300 years, that all miso was sold in wooden casks with braided bamboo hoops and, when retailed, was wrapped in the outer sheaves of bamboo shoots, that sweet white miso was most widely used for pickling fish, beef, etc., and that in making Sendai miso the steamed beans were still cooled by spreading them in wave patterns on the plant's wooden floors.

Miller (1933) discussed the use of miso in pickling vegetables such as eggplant, cucumbers, and the Oriental pickling melon. A.K. Smith (1949) gave a good update on the manufacture and use of miso in Japan. This important article was partly responsible for the first real research on miso done in the West, at the USDA in Peoria, Illinois.

During this period a number of new miso manufacturers started production in Hawaii; Yamaju Miso Factory (1936, purchased by George Higa from Mr. Fukuda), American Hawaiian Soy Co. (1941; George Higa and co-workers), Fujii Miso Factory (c. 1941-54), Honolulu Miso Factory (c. 1942-50), and Hawaiian Miso & Soy Co. (1947; George and William Higa).

In February 1942, Shortly after the outbreak of World War II, President Roosevelt signed Executive Order 9066, which permitted internment of 120,000 west-coast Japanese-Americans in ten detention camps. All of the miso shops on the west coast of the US were forcibly shut down and their owners and workers sent to the camps. At that time Fujimoto was the largest miso company in the US and the Norio Company (or was it Arimoto??) in San Francisco, making 82 tonnes a year, was probably second.

After the war there was little or no interest in miso among non-Oriental Americans until the early 1960s.

Growth of Interest in Miso (1960-1982) . The first real research on miso fermentation done in the Western world was carried out at the USDA Northern Regional Research Center (NRRC) in Peoria, Illinois, by Dr. Kazuo Shibasaki (a Japanese professor of agricultural chemistry, well trained in microbiology) and Dr. Clifford W. Hesseltine (Director of the NRRC fermentation laboratory and an eminent American microbiologist). Work began when Shibasaki arrived at the NRRC in 1957. Funded by various American groups promoting soybean exports, the team hoped to find new soybean varieties and processing methods to overcome some of the objections to American soybeans voiced by miso makers in Japan. But the research went much farther than anticipated; between 1960 and 1962 Shibasaki and Hesseltine published five pioneering scientific journal articles about miso and its fermentation and in 1961 a public service patent on "Preparation of Miso" was issued to Smith, Hesseltine, and Shibasaki. In 1959, in part because of this research, the first US soybeans imported to Japan started to be used in making miso. And the NRRC miso research found other practical applications in Japan. It led to (1) the use of pure culture yeast inocula in the second stage of the miso fermentation, in place of the traditional mixed culture taken from a previous miso fermentation, (2) the development and use of solid substrate fermentations for the industrial production of enzymes and secondary metabolites, and (3) the development of the large-scale trommel (horizontal-axis tumbler) system of making koji, which produced more enzymes. Later, in April 1974, another Japanese researcher, Mr. Ichiro Ouchi, arrived at the NRRC then spent one year with Dr. Hesseltine developing new uses for miso in Western-style foods (such as barbecue sauce, spaghetti sauce, pizza, miso mayonnaise, and potato chips) to be introduced into the increasingly Westernized diet of the younger generation in Japan. While the ultimate aim of this work, like Dr. Shibasaki's, was to increase soybean exports to Japan, some of the new recipes attracted interest in America as well. Hesseltine liked the barbecue sauce, thickened and seasoned with miso, and enjoyed introducing miso to visitors, served on a cucumber slice. From the early 1960s on, Hesseltine and co-workers at Peoria published information on miso in a wide variety of books and presented papers at many symposia. The early research at Peoria plus these publications on miso led to considerable interest in this savory fermented soyfood among Western microbiologists and food scientists (an interest dormant since the 1880s), and helped to "legitimize" this ancient fermented soyfood. As of early 1983 the NRRC was working with the University of Wisconsin to investigate the safety and storage life of low-salt misos, testing for possibilities of food poisoning from Staphylococcus, Yersinia , or botulism.

[In 1960 aflatoxins (carcinogenic toxins produced by two species of Aspergillus molds) came to the public attention when 100,000 turkeys and ducks died suddenly in England after consuming a poultry feed containing moldy Brazilian peanuts that had been contaminated with Aspergillus flavus . There was great concern that since miso and shoyu were fermented with another species of Aspergillus ( A. oryzae ) they might also contain aflatoxins. Extensive investigations on samples of commercial koji, miso, and shoyu were conducted and from 1966 many reports were published on the subject. In Japan, for example, Manabe and Matsuura (1968) detected no aflatoxin on 238 samples of koji from koji makers, 28 koji samples from miso factories, 108 industrial miso samples, 30 homemade samples, and 20 shoyu samples collected nationwide. Wang and Hesseltine (1979), leading US researchers on the subject, reviewed the literature, which showed repeatedly that soybeans are a poor substrate for aflatoxin production. The koji mold is completely different from molds of the same Aspergillus genus that produce aflatoxins, just as edible and poisonous mushrooms come from the same genus. Moreover, aflatoxins are most commonly found on peanuts, corn, cottonseeds, and copra. Despite this international consensus that aflatoxins are not present in soyfoods, in May 1969 Time magazine published a 1/2-page article "Cancer: A Clue from Under the Eaves," about possible aflatoxins in homemade miso and soy sauce. Although the article's conclusions were highly speculative and the analytical techniques used strongly criticized, many Americans unfamiliar with the details and background of the issue became alarmed and wondered if it was perhaps unsafe to consume miso. Their fears were totally ungrounded, for no aflatoxins have ever been found in any commercial miso or shoyu.]

During the late 1970s evidence accumulated showing that nitrosamines were formed during the salt pickling of some Japanese foods and that these nitrosamines might well be contributing to Japan's high rates of stomach cancer. Miso was extensively tested and no nitrosamines were found. In fact Nagahori et al. (1980) found clear evidence of substances in miso and shoyu that suppress nitrosamine formation.

The single most importance force in introducing miso to America and popularizing its use was the macrobiotic movement, founded by a remarkable Japanese couple, George and Lima Ohsawa. Their work began at about the same time as that at the USDA/NRRC in Peoria, although the two knew nothing of one another. In the early 1950s several of Ohsawa's macrobiotic students had arrived in New York city to prepare a beachhead and as early as March 1952 Herman Aihara was selling miso, imported from Ohsawa in Japan, in New York City. Ohsawa first arrived in America in December 1959. From January to March 1960, he presented 30 lectures on macrobiotics and published a mimeographed edition of Zen Macrobiotics , which sold for $0.50 at the lectures. The booklet contained ten miso recipes (perhaps the first published in the US) and introduced miso and shoyu as key components of a macrobiotic diet. Shoyu was spelled "syoyu;" Ohsawa did not call it tamari , as he later would. Soon Ohsawa's small but dedicated group of American students were using these new foods as part of their daily fare. During the late 1950s and early 1960s, two restaurants (Zen Teahouse and Musubi) and a macrobiotic food store (Ginza) were started by Ohsawa's Japanese students in New York City. They served and/or sold miso and natural shoyu, which Ohsawa had sent from Japan. In about November 1963 Michio Kushi opened the Genpei Restaurant in the Diamond Jim Building on 46th St. in New York. In the basement, Junsei Yamazaki, just (when??) arrived from Japan via Chico, California, made his own barley koji then made about 100 pounds of miso in three 18-liter soy sauce vats. This was the first "macrobiotic" miso made in America; it was later moved to the basement of the Kushi home in Boston, where it finished its aging, then was enjoyed by the Kushis and their students.

For Ohsawa, as for all subsequent teachers and students of macrobiotics, miso was far more than just a savory high-protein seasoning and a source of natural digestion-aiding enzymes and bacteria. According to macrobiotic philosophy, it was, above all, a very yang food (since it contained salt and was fermented under pressure for a long time) and, as such, it was believed to have intrinsic healing, almost medicinal effects that could be used to combat various diseases (the result of an excessively yin constitution) and to aid in maintaining a balanced constitution or body/mind. For this reason most macrobiotic followers recommended the more yang barley and Hatcho misos for daily and healing use, rather than the various rice misos, which were considered more yin . It was primarily because of this belief in a deeper dimension to miso's value that Ohsawa and the macrobiotic movement took such a deep interest in miso. Indeed brown rice, cooked land and sea vegetables, and miso soup were considered the primary ingredients, to be used daily, in a healthful and healing macrobiotic diet.

From 1960-1966 Ohsawa lectured repeatedly about the virtues of miso and shoyu. In 1963 and 1966 editions of his popular macrobiotic cookbook, Zen Cookery , were published. It contained an entire chapter on "Miso Soy Bean Paste," including 13 recipes, which generated growing interest in this largely unknown soyfood. In 1965 a second edition of Zen Macrobiotics contained numerous miso recipes. At the time of Ohsawa's death in 1966 (he was 72), a rapidly growing number of young Caucasian Americans, interested in natural foods and macrobiotics, were using miso and shoyu regularly.

Ohsawa's students, both Japanese and American, actively continued his work. In late 1961 a group of students from New York had migrated to Chico, California, and in March 1962 they founded a new food company called Chico-San. They imported traditional miso from Japan and had it widely distributed under their label. Herman Aihara and Bob Kennedy lectured widely on miso and macrobiotics. In 1964 Junsei Yamazaki began experimental production of miso and shoyu at Chico-san and over the years he made 20 whiskey barrels full of 320 pounds miso each. When this miso matured, it was generally mixed with miso imported from Japan. In mid-1970 Yamazaki began to make large batches. Tragically in September 1972, when he had 1,200-1,600 pounds aging in wooden vats, the building burned down and all the miso was destroyed. After that Yamazaki taught miso making to small groups of students. In mid-1968 Health Food Business Review wrote an article about Chico-San's miso, calling it "Soy Bean Puree." This was the first popular article or health-food article about miso written in the US. In 1972 Aihara wrote and published Miso and Tamari , the first booklet about these foods in the West. It contained the first recipes for making miso and miso pickles at home; recipes for making barley, rice, and Hatcho miso were also given. In 1974 a revised and expanded edition of the book entitled Soybean Diet was published. Herman and Cornellia taught about miso extensively and published a number of other macrobiotic cookbooks containing miso recipes, such as the Chico-San Cookbook (1972). Chico-San continued to import, advertise, and distribute fine natural miso, expanding their efforts in the early 1980s. As of 1983 Chico-San had a three-stage plan to make miso in Chico. Working with a Japanese miso company they would first import bulk miso to Chico and practice aging it, then make miso at Chico using koji imported from Japan under refrigeration, and finally make the entire miso (including the koji) at Chico. They also hoped to make shoyu. In 1980 Yamazaki bought land in Orland in Northern California, where he hoped to start making high-quality miso using the finest natural ingredients, and to grow ume plums for umeboshi salt plums. His first batches were scheduled to go in the vats in early 1985.

Another center of activity for macrobiotics and miso was Boston, where Michio and Aveline Kushi taught, starting in September 1963. In April 1966 they opened Erewhon, a small macrobiotic food store that carried, among other things, natural miso and shoyu. The naturally-fermented miso was purchased from Infinity Foods in New York, Chico-san in California, and a little from Lima Foods in Belgium. Hatcho miso was ordered from local Japanese trading companies, Japan Foods Corp. or Nishimoto. These misos were among the store's best-selling items. In 1968 Sanae, a macrobiotic restaurant, was started in Boston; it served miso and other soyfoods, as did all subsequent macrobiotic restaurants in Boston. Also in 1968 Erewhon started to import foods, including miso and shoyu, from Japan. A wholesale and distribution company was started that year and soon it was trucking a line of fine imported Japanese red, barley, and Hatcho misos to a growing number of natural food stores. The natural foods boom hit America in 1970, carrying Erewhon (and miso) along with it. Sesame miso and tekka miso were added to the Erewhon line. Other macrobiotic and natural food distributors sprang up across America and they too all carried and strongly promoted miso. In 1980 Erewhon sold roughly 150,000 pounds total of its three basic misos. The East West Journal , founded in Boston in January 1971, soon became America's leading macrobiotic magazine. It played a major role in popularizing miso, with many excellent articles and recipes, as described later. Autumn Press, whose founder Nahum Stiskin studied macrobiotics in Boston, translated and published Lima Ohsawa's The Art of Just Cooking (1974), which contained many miso recipes, then in 1976 published the original edition of The Book of Miso by Shurtleff and Aoyagi. In 1978 Aveline Kushi wrote How to Cook with Miso , which was widely read. In 1980, after about a year of eating a strict macrobiotic diet and receiving consultations from Michio Kushi, Dr. Anthony Sattilaro, a physician and then chief administrator at Methodist Hospital in Philadelphia, experienced an almost miraculous complete recovery from terminal cancer that had riddled his body. The dramatic story was published in the East West Journal (March 1980 and March 1981), the Saturday Evening Post (August 1981), and Life magazine (August 1982), and eventually in a best-selling major book Recalled By Life (Sattilaro 1982). Through these publications miso, in the form of miso soup, which was a key part of his daily macrobiotic diet, was introduced to millions of Americans. In these and a host of other ways, the Boston macrobiotic community played a leading role in introducing miso to America.

During the 1960s New York remained active as a center of interest in macrobiotics and miso. Howard Rower's Infinity Foods, established in the mid-1960s, imported fine miso from a macrobiotic exporter in Japan and distributed it to natural food companies in the US. Michel Abehsera, a young Jewish French Moroccan who began macrobiotics and studying macrobiotics in 1961, arrived with his wife in New York from Paris in 1964. Thereafter the couple ran a number of highly successful macrobiotic restaurants in New York City, all of which served miso and he wrote two macrobiotic cookbooks, Zen Macrobiotic Cooking (1968) and Cooking for Life (1970), which sold very well and each contained four miso recipes. In 1969 the Abehseras toured the entire US, lecturing about macrobiotics, including miso.

Another key macrobiotic miso teacher was Noboru Muramoto, who immigrated to America from Japan in 1971. In his popular book Healing Ourselves (Muramoto and Abehsera 1973) he suggested a number of medicinal uses for miso. From 1976, at his Asunaro Institute near Glen Ellen, California, he set up a regular shop for making miso and shoyu, developed (with his students) many American-style miso recipes, and taught many students these food crafts, including at least one (Elwell) who went on to open a commercial miso company (Lachman and Elwell 1978). His newsletter Asunaro Notes published several articles on miso making. In late 1979 Muramoto relocated his Institute in Escondido, California, where he continued to give classes on miso and other Japanese foods.

The first four non-Oriental miso companies in America were all founded by students of macrobiotics: Thom Leonard of Ohio Miso Co., John Belleme of the American Miso Company in North Carolina, Christian and Gaella Elwell of South River Miso Co. in Massachusetts, and Dale Deraps of Imagine Foods/Moniteau Farm in Missouri. Strangely, many macrobiotic companies, teachers, and publications persisted in the use of Japanese names for miso (saying mugi for "barley," genmai for "brown rice," kome ^?? for "rice," etc.) which gave miso a slightly exotic image and probably slowed its introduction to America. They also were slow to accept the growing medical advice that less salt consumption is better. Despite these minor points, the macrobiotic community unquestionably played the leading role in introducing miso to the Western world (see Chapter 67).

Although students of macrobiotics were the first Caucasians seriously interested in miso and in using it daily, and although they opened the first Caucasian miso shops, they were not the very first Caucasians to make their own miso for food use. Students at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center in California have that distinction. In the fall of either 1968 or 1969 Kobun Chino-sensei, a Japanese Zen priest, worked with Ed Brown (head cook), William Shurtleff, and several other Americans in making miso. They obtained koji starter from Japantown in San Francisco, made rice koji which was incubated in handmade wooden trays above the Tassajara kitchen stove, cooked soybeans in large pots and ground them in a Corona hand mill, then mashed together the koji, soybeans and salt in a large brandy barrel (the charred interior had been scraped clean) using a wooden mochi pounder. After being aged in the basement for 12 months, the 35-50 gallons of excellent quality miso was used in the community's meals--mostly in soups. It is interesting to note that the transmission of this ancient art was made by Buddhist priests, just as it had been in Japan 1,200 years earlier.

After 1973 a growing number of Caucasian Americans, mostly students of macrobiotics, began to make their own miso. In about 1973 Aveline Kushi in Boston held some informal miso making classes using ready-made store-bought koji; one 18-liter keg of miso was made. In 1974 Blake Rankin, freshly returned from studying miso shops in Japan, worked with George Gearhart at Janus Foods in Seattle making small batches from store-bought koji. By 1975 they were making their own barley and wheat koji in redwood koji trays during 3-day workshops and teaching six students from the Seattle Zen Center. Eventually they made 500 pounds and published a description of the process. By 1976 Gearhart was teaching miso making classes in Washington and California, as was Bob Gerner at Westbrae Natural Foods in Berkeley. In the fall of 1974 Thom Leonard made his first batch of barley koji and barley miso in Fayetteville, Arkansas, using a recipe from Aihara's new book Soybean Diet . The 80-pound batch of miso was aged in a soy sauce keg from Hong Kong. He then made 80-pound batches of chunky wheat miso in the fall of 1975 (he later pickled tofu in it) and of barley miso in early 1976. He and Jim Hemminger made larger scale miso equipment and on 15 April 1977 packed their first 35-gallon cedar vat with brown rice miso. By the end of July they had sold 450 pounds of "mellow brown rice miso," a moderately sweet variety fermented for four to six weeks. 1400 pounds of a light yellow miso was then aging in the vats and was sold the following summer under the name "light brown rice miso." These were the earliest known sweet (i.e. low-salt) and light-colored misos made with brown rice rather than polished white rice.(Leonard 1977). This miso was sold to and distributed by the Ozark Cooperative Warehouse. In June of 1978, and again in 1980, Leonard taught miso classes at a macrobiotic "summer camp" at the Spiral Inn in Missouri. Then from late 1980 on he taught about 15 classes on making miso and other soyfoods at the Kushi Institute and at his home in rural Massachusetts. Others who made miso on a home or community scale in the mid-1970s included Charlie Kendall, Robert Johnson, David Tucker, and The Farm in Tennessee.

In May 1974 William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi, then living in Japan, started to write The Book of Miso . Shurtleff had been introduced to miso by Allen Ginsberg and Gary Snyder on a Circumambulation of Mt. Tamalpais in February 1967 (it was served with sesame tahini as a spread on crackers), had frequently used and twice made miso after June 1968 while working as a cook at Tassajara Zen Mountain Center near Big Sur in California, and in the spring of 1973 had made miso on Suwanose Island in southern Japan, then studied miso-like products in Taiwan and Korea. The Book of Miso , published in September 1976 by Autumn Press, was the first major book on miso in the West, and Shurtleff was the first Westerner since Kellner in 1889 to do extensive research on miso in East Asia and the first ever to apprentice to a Japanese miso master. The book contained information on miso varieties, nutrition, history, production (on a home, community, traditional shop, or modern factory scale), and microbiology, plus 400 recipes and a lengthy bibliography. In 1981 an updated mass market edition was published by Ballantine Books; by late 1982 the two editions had sold 70,000 copies. In 1977 the Shurtleffs self-published Miso Production , describing how to start and run a commercial miso plant; it was used in starting a number of such plants in the following years. These books helped to establish and standardize the English names of miso varieties and, in general, to introduce miso to the West.

With the growing demand for fine miso, a new wave of miso manufacturers started in America. The last company had been started in 1932. The first of the new companies was Miyako Oriental Foods, which opened in an 11,000-square-foot plant in Los Angeles (404 Towne Ave.) in June 1976, as a division of Yamajirushi Miso Company in Japan; they took over the Yamaizumi and Kanemasa brand; and some of the equipment of the former Fujimoto Miso Co. In 1978 Miyako introduced the Cold Mountain brand, marketed to the natural foods trade and started selling firm granular rice koji under that brand in tubs of 12 or 20 ounces, or 25 pounds for people wishing to make their own miso. By 1981 Miyako was producing four brands of miso plus rice koji, and also doing some private labeling. Ninety percent of their miso was sold to the Oriental trade; the remaining 10% was their Cold Mountain brand, with four varieties sold to the natural and health food trades. Eighty percent of their total sales were in California. Their production capacity was reported to be 454 tonnes (500 US tons) a year in 1979, up 300% in 5 years and growing with the market at 15-25% a year. By late 1982 Miyako, now making 544 tonnes (600 US tons) of miso a year, had outgrown its original plant. In September the operation was moved into a sparkling new 20,000-square-foot plant with an annual capacity 1,800 tonnes in Baldwin Park, California. The grand opening, costing $15,000, drew 500 miso enthusiasts. With sales now growing at 10-15% a year Miyako was considering production of powdered misos (Leviton 1983).

The first Caucasian-run miso company in North America was Ohio Miso Co. in Monroeville, Ohio, founded by Thom Leonard and Richard Kluding; they began production on 13 March 1979. Leonard had been making miso on a small, noncommercial scale since late 1974, as described earlier. By January 1980 Ohio Miso was making several varieties of miso; brown rice, barley (1 or 2 year), mellow brown rice, and black soybean; output was 2,400 pounds a week (D.B. 1979, Carr 1980; Leviton 1980).

Other early companies were Shin-Mei-Do Miso (opened April 1979 by Lulu Yoshihara; Denman Island, BC, Canada); American Miso, Inc. (October 1981 by John Belleme; Rutherfordton, North Carolina); South River Miso Co. (having bought out Ohio Miso Co. in November 1980, Christian and Gaella Elwell started their own production in October 1982 in a beautiful traditional shop at Conway, Massachusetts). The founders of Shin-Mei-Do and American Miso, Inc. had both apprenticed with makers of traditional miso in Japan (Belleme 1981a,b, 1981a). American Miso was the largest of the new Caucasian-run companies. Located on 100 acres of rural land, the company spent $325,000 for two buildings (3,500 square feet) and unique equipment, which combined both traditional and modern-mechanized components. The plant's capacity was 227 tonnes (500,000 pounds) of miso a year. Production grew steadily from 1,250 pounds a week in April 1982, to 3,000-4,800 pounds a week in late summer 1982, up to 6,000 pounds a week in early 1983, the latter being the equivalent of 131 tonnes a year. A detailed cover story by Leviton in the summer 1982 issue of Soyfoods magazine described the company's operations; it was making red (rice), mellow barley, and mellow white misos of excellent quality, with plans for miso dips and dressings, and from 1983, natural shoyu (see also Greenwood 1982). In 1982 Dale Deraps of Imagine Foods/Moniteau Farm in Jamestown, Missouri, and Mr. Chong of General Oriental Foods (225 tonnes a year capacity) in Holmdel, New Jersey, both began making miso. Most of these companies made naturally fermented, unpasteurized miso. As of 1983 a number of new companies and individuals were seriously considering starting miso plants in the US, which will certainly help create an expanding market.

The American media, and especially the macrobiotic and natural foods media, took a strong interest in miso. Major articles included "Soy Bean Puree: Miso. Ancient Oriental Health Food" ( Health Food Business Review , July 1968), "Recipes from Aveline Kushi's Book of Miso" (Kushi 1971, EWJ ), "Making Miso in America" (B.W. 1971, EWJ , a visit to the Norio Company in San Francisco), "How to Make Miso: An Excerpt from The Book of Miso " (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, Nov. 1976, EWJ ), "Cooking: From the Book of Miso" (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, June 1977, EWJ ), "Making Miso in America" (Lachman and Elwell, Sept. 1978, EWJ )., "Cooking with Miso" (Shurtleff and Aoyagi, Nov. 1978, Alternatives), "Down-Home Miso," (D.B., Oct. 1979, Whole Foods ), "Miso: Made in the USA." (Carr, Jan. 1980, EWJ ), "Make Way for Miso" (Mandoe, July 1980, Bestways ), "The Miso Master's Apprentice" (Belleme, April 1981a, EWJ ), "American Miso Makes a Big Move Down South" and "Miso-Cup" (Leviton, Summer 1982, Soyfoods ), and "Smokey Mountain Miso" (Greenwood, Nov. 1982, EWJ ), about American Miso Co.). Note that 8 of these 11 articles were published in the East West Journal . After the near nuclear reactor catastrophe at Three Mile Island in March 1979, a number of media articles recommended that Americans use miso since the dipicolinic acid it contains may partially protect the body from ingested radioactive materials.

Starting in the 1960s, there was a growing interest in Chinese and Japanese cooking in the US. Gloria Miller's The Thousand Recipe Chinese Cookbook (1966) was one of the first to have good information on and recipes for Chinese jiang. Good early Japanese cookbooks with many miso recipes included Japanese Country Cookbook (Rudzinsky 1969), The Cooking of Japan (Steinberg, 1969; a magnificent work), and Zen Tastes in Japanese Cooking (Tsuji 1971; the finest work available on Tea Ceremony Cuisine).

After the pioneering scientific research on miso and its fermentation by Shibasaki and Hesseltine in the early 1960s, there was surprisingly little such research subsequently. In 1974 C. Kao at Kansas State University published a PhD dissertation on miso (and other fermented foods) made from chick-peas, fava beans, and soybeans, then in 1977 Robinson and Kao wrote a journal article summary of that research. In 1979 and 1981 Fukushima gave general information on miso and its status in Japan. Also a number of Japanese patents for miso and koji began to be granted in the US (Koyama 1976; Hayashi 1977).

American miso makers and marketers were innovative, developing a number of new products suited to American tastes. In the mid-1970s most of the miso in America was sold as such, in bulk or plastic bags, imported from Japan. The most popular varieties were red, barley, and Hatcho miso. A Finger Lickin' miso was also quite popular on the West Coast. America's first widely distributed product in which miso was used as an ingredient in a popular preparation was Instant Aka Miso Soup, introduced by Kikkoman in a foil packet in 1968 and sold in the Japanese food section at many West Coast supermarkets, as well as Japanese food stores. By 1983 Kikkoman was offering an Instant Aka Miso Soup, Instant Shiro Miso Soup, and Instant Tofu Miso Soup, each in a large, colorful foil packet. In the fall of 1978 Edward & Sons Trading Co., under the direction of Joel Dee, introduced Miso-Cup, an instant natural dehydrated miso soup, packaged in foil pouches. By 1980 two flavors were available: golden light and rich savory with seaweed. Miso-Cup soon became the most widely advertised miso product in America (Leviton 1982). Year after year, full-page color or black-and-white ads in many US natural and health food publications served to introduce millions of Americans to miso. Some people used Miso-Cup to help them kick the coffee/caffeine habit, finding its aroma and flavor as appetizing as those of coffee. In 1982 Edward & Sons introduced two powdered miso dip mixes, Miso-Plus Chive and Miso-Plus Jalapeno. Mixed with sour cream, yogurt, avocado, etc. they yielded quick and easy party dips or salad dressings. In the late 1970s San-J introduced a powdered soybean miso, containing 33% protein, which they sold to food processors as a natural substitute for MSG. White Wave in Colorado introduced a Yellow Miso Dressing, sold in an 8-ounce jar. In 1980 Marusan started importing two types of instant miso soups with red or white miso and ran full-page color ads in trade magazines. In 1982 Fantastic Foods launched a widely advertised Quick Pilaf: Brown Rice with Miso, Health Valley introduced Vegetarian Baked Beans with Miso and Corn Chips with Miso and Wizard Baldour debuted the marvelous Hot Stuff with Miso. In early 1983 Westbrae Natural Foods presented their Instant Miso Soup in "white flavor and red flavor." Increasingly, then miso was used as a key ingredient in other popular American foods.

American miso makers also experimented with using new basic ingredients to make new basic types of miso. Starting in about 1975 craftsmen began getting good results using peanuts, garbanzo beans (chick-peas), black soybeans, and natto in place of regular soybeans, making their koji from corn, millet, wheat, or buckwheat, and using powdered kelp as a partial salt substitute. Yet except for the corn-soy miso and moromi wheat miso made by South River Miso Co. and Imagine Foods, relatively little of these new American-style misos were sold commercially.

During the 1970s and early 1980s the miso market in the US grew steadily, with the growth coming from both increased imports and increased domestic production. Imports of miso from Japan to the US grew from 219 tonnes in 1970 to 959 tonnes in 1982, for a 4.4-fold increase in just 12 years and a compound growth rate of more than 12% a year. Note that the growth rate increased markedly after 1968 (Fig. ??.?). An estimated 20-25% of this imported miso was the traditional, natural style sold to the natural foods trade, with most of the rest going to Oriental food stores. Imported miso was subject to a 14% import duty. Interestingly miso and soy sauce were the only two soyfoods imported in large quantities to America; smaller quantities of soymilk and tofu in Tetra Pak were also imported.

Despite the rapid increase in miso imports, it appears that production of miso in America grew at an even faster rate, although precise prior to 1975 statistics are not available. Reliable estimates, however, indicate that between 1975 and 1982 miso production in the contiguous 48 states jumped from 120-750 tonnes, a remarkable 525% while production in Hawaii grew steadily from 543-640 tonnes, some 18%. Thus total US miso consumption (imports plus domestic production) grew from 756 tonnes in 1970 to 1,122 tonnes in 1975, up to 2,349 tonnes in 1982. By late 1982 Americans in the continental US were consuming three times as much miso as they had in 1975 and the market was growing at about 17% a year!

As of 1983, the miso industry in the US consisted of eight manufacturers (three in Hawaii), plus two more in Canada (see Appendix D). The largest producers were Miyako Oriental Foods (544 tonnes a year), Hawaiian Miso & Soy Co. (512 tonnes a year), American Miso, Inc. (125 tonnes a year), and American Hawaiian Soy Co. (125 tonnes a year). The US miso industry used about 463 tonnes of soybeans and employed about 27 workers to make this miso, which retailed for about $4.9 million. The total retail value of domestically made and imported miso was about $8.2 million.

This miso was consumed by both Asian and Caucasian Americans, both in growing numbers. During the 1970s the population of Asian and Pacific Americans grew by leaps and bounds, from 1,369,000 in 1970 to 3,500,000 in 1980, up 2.5-fold. The leading miso consumers in 1980 were probably Japanese-Americans, which numbered 700,747, up from 591,000 in 1970. The 806,000 Chinese-Americans and 774,000 Filipino-Americans were also important consumers. The main centers of Asian-American population, in order of importance, were Honolulu, New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Chicago, San Jose (CA), Seattle, and Houston.

Caucasian miso consumers came from several groups. The great majority came from the closely related natural foods, macrobiotic, or vegetarian movements, but some came from the growing number of people interested in Japanese, Chinese, and other Asian cuisine. The prime consumer age group was 25-40. To each of these meatless or largely meatless diets, miso added its savory rich flavor plus some protein. Although the percentage of all miso in America consumed by Caucasians grew rapidly during the 1970s, as of 1983 it was probably still somewhat less than that consumed by Oriental Americans (primarily Japanese Americans).

From the mid-1970s to 1983 major changes took place in the miso market in America. Total miso consumption tripled and miso was increasingly sold as an ingredient in other popular foods rather than as miso itself. Misos with a lower salt content, lighter color, and sweeter flavor passed the darker, more traditional misos in popularity as Americans looked to reduce their salt intake. The market share of American-made misos steadily increased, even though they were generally more expensive than imports. The sale of domestically made misos in a cottage-cheese style round plastic tub with a pop-off lid made them easier to use then those in a sealed plastic bag and allowed them to be sold unpasteurized. Packaged miso (in tubs and bags) rapidly replaced the lower cost but messier bulk, self-serve misos. Important importers who distributed miso to the prime Caucasian markets (most also carried domestic misos) were, in approximate order of size, Westbrae Natural Foods in California, Tree of Life in Florida, Eden Foods in Michigan, Erewhon in Massachusetts, Chico-San in California, and Marusan in New Jersey. Major Japanese distributors, which serviced Oriental food stores and supermarkets, are listed in Appendix D. In 1982 a survey by New Age magazine of 60,000 readers showed that 36% purchased miso at least once a month. Yet more important, a steadily growing number of typical Americans were starting to use miso, usually as an ingredient in other popular foods. More and more natural foods restaurants (including soy delis, restaurants, and cafes) included miso dishes on their menu. The most popular use, at home and in restaurants, was in soups, followed by dips, dressings, sauces, and spreads. Most Americans greatly enjoy the flavor of a well-made miso soup.

In late 1982 JETRO, a Los Angeles based organization promoting Japanese exports, published a 32-page study (in Japanese) on the American Miso Market. Surveys done in Los Angeles showed that 63% of miso buyers in stores were Asian Americans and 37% were Caucasians, the predominant buyers were in their 30s or 50s, there were seven major miso importers in Los Angeles, and in 20 of Los Angeles' 450 Japanese restaurants, the main dishes in which miso was served were miso soup (19), Ishikari Nabe^?? (one pot cookery, 5), Tofu Miso Dengaku (5), Steak Grilled with Miso (4), and Salad with Vinegar Miso Dressing (2).

Miso was introduced to Caucasian Americans from the 1960s on as food that fostered good health. Starting in the late 1970s there was a rising concern by a growing number of Americans over their excessive consumption of salt (sodium). At least initially, this probably hurt miso's image as a healthful food, since it contains an average of 12% salt. The low-salt trend definitely led to a shift toward lower salt misos. Yet in the process more and more people came to realize that miso is actually an excellent food to help reduce salt intake (as explained in detail in BOM Chapter 2). Research has shown that people who season their food with miso instead of straight salt typically end up using 50% less salt, since it adds to its own rich flavor. The extensive research done in Japan on the relationship between miso consumption and good health is described in Chapter 2. And finally, there is a growing consensus among nutritionists and physicians that diets containing less saturated animal fats and cholesterol (as are widely consumed in red meats) are healthier. As interest in meatless diets grow among those interested in good health, reduced food bills, world hunger, and animal rights, miso is increasingly being used to provide the savory flavors and protein once obtained from meats.

It is interesting to compare consumption of miso and soy sauce in both Japan and the United States. In 1980 in Japan the per capita yearly consumption of miso was 6.0 kg (13.2 lb) whereas that of shoyu was 11.86 kg or 10.1 liters (26.1 lb or 2.67 gallons). Thus Japanese consumed almost twice as much shoyu by weight as miso. In America the figures were, of course, much lower. Per capita yearly consumption of soy sauce in the US was 254 gm or 0.254 kg or 0.216 liters or 14.7 tablespoons, roughly 2% of the per capita consumption in Japan. Per capita yearly consumption of miso in the US was 7.37 gm or 0.007 kg or 1.3 teaspoons per year, roughly 0.1% of the per capita miso consumption in Japan. Thus the average Japanese consumes 50 times as much shoyu and 800 times as much miso as the average American, and the average American downs 35 times as much shoyu as miso.

One might be inclined to ask why, if both miso and shoyu are so widely used in Japan, miso is not nearly so well known nor widely used in the West. The reason for this unusual development lies, we feel, more in the difference in structure between the miso and shoyu industries, than in the basic appeal of the two foods. Most Japanese shoyu is produced by a few huge companies which have had the capacity and foresight to engage in international advertising and commerce. By comparison, the largest miso companies are quite small and have only a few decades of modern business experience. Therefore they have not yet been able to make their product known or available throughout the world. Nor, perhaps, have they become fully aware of the genuine interest in and potential market for fine miso in the United States and Europe. We are convinced that if a large (Japanese) miso company believed in the potential of miso as much as Kikkoman believes in that of shoyu (Japanese style soy sauce) and would promote miso as extensively and effectively as Kikkoman has promoted shoyu, miso's popularity would grow dramatically.

Miso's Future in the West. As of 1983 miso would seem to have a bright future in the West, as indicated by all major market trends except the concern with excess salt consumption, which can be turned to miso's advantage. In much the same way that the Japanese, over a period of 1,000 years, gradually transformed Chinese soybean jiang into unique and truly Japanese-style misos, so may we also expect that Westerners will continue the creative process, adapting miso to their own tastes, technology, and cuisine. There are many reasons to believe that miso will play an increasingly important role in America's evolving cuisine and became a standard household seasoning, just as soy sauce now is, as people discover the great variety of delicious flavors and aromas found in the many and varied types of fine miso.


Miso has not yet attracted the attention it deserves in most Third World countries. We know of miso research in only two countries not already mentioned:

Israel. Using United States PL 480 funds, Diamant et al. (1963), Ilany-Feigenbaum et al. (1967, 1969), and Diamant and Laxer (1968) developed misos from defatted soybean flakes and alternate carbohydrate sources such as corn, oats, potatoes, and sweet potatoes. Diamant and Laxer also developed a low-salt miso (4%), which had twice the PER (Protein Efficiency Ratio) as regular miso when fed to rats. Apparently the typical amount of salt suppressed rat growth.

India. Rao et al. (1968, 1972) have done research on miso-like foods based in Indian oilseeds and pulses.

Latin America . The only Third World country we know of where miso is widely available is Brazil. However much of this miso is imported from Japan and most of it is consumed by the country's large Japanese population. Friends of miso from Mexico have suggested that miso there might be marketed as "Super Miso," a play on words with "Con su permiso," or "With your permission, I'd like some please."


Page 1 | Page 2 | Page 3 | Page 4