History of Soy Sauce, Shoyu, and Tamari - 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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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 Soyfoods Center, Lafayette, Californi

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In Japan the term "shoyu" is used to refer to the many varieties of soy sauce. There are relatively few good books in Japanese on the history of shoyu. The most important are Ichiyama's two works on the history of Kikkoman (1940 and 1968), which trace the history of shoyu from its origins in China to the present, and Shoyu Enkaku-shi by Kin (1913), of which 40% is early shoyu history and 60% is the history of Choshi Shoyu/Higeta. In English, Fruin's Kikkoman: Company, Clan, Community (1983) is highly recommended. See also Chapter 74 in this book on the History of Kikkoman.

Hishio (Jiang), Tamari, and Other Forerunners of Shoyu . The earliest known ancestor of shoyu in Japan was hishio (a word derived from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese character for jiang), and particularly the type called kokubishio (grain hishio), then made primarily with soybeans and salt, with little or no wheat. This early hishio, dark brown in color, had a consistency like the moromi (mash) from which today's shoyu is pressed; it was semisolid, resembling applesauce or porridge. The first mention of hishio (probably soybean hishio) is found in the Daihinrei of emperor Monmu written in 701; it stated that the regulations of the Hishio Bureau ( Hishio-tsukasa ) had been established. More detailed mention of hishio was given in the Todaiji Shosoin Monjo (AD 730-48). The introduction and use of this and other soy-based seasonings was probably the result of the introduction of Buddhism to Japan in about AD 552, and the consequent change to a vegetarian diet (but with fish), especially following an edict in about the seventh century in which the emperor forbade the consumption of the meat of four-legged animals. The Japanese adhered faithfully to their meatless diet for the next 1,100 years, and the new seasoning from soybeans gradually--rapidly after the 1600s--took the place of the salted, fermented fish sauces (such as shottsuru ) and meat sauces that had been used previously.

The first vague reference to the possible extraction of a liquid from hishio appeared in 771 (Hoki 2) in the ?? Hosha Issaikyo Shokoku ?? kai, written in the Chinese grammatical form, which said "Take 4 to and 2 sho (20 gallons) of hishio. Use it with 5 to (23.8 gallons) soybean hishio to extract a liquid." The meaning of the passage is not very clear and the name of the liquid is not given.

Hishio was the ancestor of both shoyu and miso; in a sense the semisolid hishio was transformed by the Japanese into a paste (miso) and a liquid (shoyu). More precisely, however, miso evolved from hishio, then tamari evolved from miso, and shoyu evolved from tamari. Miso emerged as a food and seasoning in its own right during the period from AD 800-900 and the present word for miso first appeared in a document of 901.

The origins of modern shoyu can perhaps be traced a little more clearly to the mid-1200s (the date 1254 is often used) and the introduction of Kinzanji miso (Ichiyama 1968 calls it Kinzanji soy nuggets or kuki ) to Japan. According to one theory based on popular oral tradition (recorded in the Yuasa Shoyu Enkaku Taiyo , trans/auth/date?? but with no citations from primary sources), the Japanese Zen priest Kakushin went to China to Kinzanji, the Temple of the Golden Mountain, one of China's five great Sung dynasty Zen centers. There he learned how to make a type of miso called Kinzanji miso, which was probably relatively sweet and chunky. Establishing himself at Kokoku-ji temple near the town of Yuasa (in today's Wakayama prefecture just south of Osaka), he began to teach the local people both Buddhist meditation and the method for preparing his miso specialty. He is said to have discovered that the liquid which settled to the bottom of the miso kegs made an excellent cooking liquid and seasoning, so he decided to alter the basic formula slightly by increasing the amount of water used. After the regular fermentation period, the excess liquid was run out through a bung hole or ladled off and briefly heated to stop fermentation, while the remaining Kinzanji miso--or a close facsimile thereof--was used as it always had been, deprived, however, of a portion of its rich flavor, which now graced the savory seasoning liquid. It is not clear whether the early Kinzanji miso, like the basis for Chinese soy sauce, consisted primarily of soybeans and salt with little grains, or whether it resembled today's Kinzanji miso and contained a large portion of grain koji (Ando et al. 1954; Ando 1971).

Kakushin, also known posthumously as Hoto Kokushi, was a famous legendary character, similar to Kobo Daishi before him. In the Yuasa area his name was commonly written on wooden placards, which people worshipped in temples and at home altars. Since there is no firm evidence linking him to the origins of shoyu, it is possible that later generations attached his name and work to shoyu to give the latter prestige and early origin. There is no doubt that Yuasa was one of the earliest centers of shoyu in Japan, but it may have been just one of several and there is no solid proof that it was the earliest.

It is not known what the liquid seasoning from Kakushin's miso was called. By the late 1300s it came to be called tamari , deriving its name from the Japanese verb tamaru , meaning "to accumulate," as "water accumulates in ponds." Nothing is known about early written appearances of the word tamari , but from the late 1300s until the 1570s, it was generally written like its Chinese counterpart ( ??) douyou , with dou meaning "soybeans" and you meaning "a liquid extracted by filtering or pressing." After the 1570s it gradually came to be written with the character now most widely used ( ??), also pronounced tamari . Since this term is rarely seen in the literature of this period, the product was probably not yet widely used.

It is said that by 1260 this "tamari" was being produced for home consumption in the towns of Yuasa and Hiromura, both near Kakushin's temple and both blessed with a favorable climate and bountiful supply of unusually good water. By the year 1290 the first Yuasa tamari was said to have been sold commercially, and soon even poets began to sing the praises of this new delicacy, calling it murasaki ("deep purple"), a synonym used even today for the finest shoyu. Ref??

Smell the aroma from the depths of the brewing keg! Waves of fragrance, deep purple, tamari;

Flowers of wisteria.

Its origins reaching back to the Antei period,

Its brewing lineage inherited from the great teacher Tamari from Yuasa is the first in the emperor's kingdom. Its aroma is of the finest quality.

Its flavor most excellent,

Its fame, the noblest and purest flower of Arita.

(Note: Arita is the early name of the Yuasa region.)

During the Muromachi period (1328-1573) much research was done on hishio, miso, and tamari, both on the types and relative quantities of the raw materials and on the fermentation process; new and improved products were gradually developed. Moreover, three basic methods were developed for producing tamari-type seasoning liquids: (1) making miso with a slightly high water content, then filtering or ladling off excess liquid that collected, to get miso-damari ("damari" is an alternative?? pronunciation of "tamari"); (2) putting this soft miso in a cloth sack and pressing it; and (3) mixing and often cooking miso with about three times its volume of water, then extracting the liquid by pressing in a sack. In each case, the remaining miso was also used as a seasoning.

From the late 700s until about 1450, all tamari had been extracted by filtering or ladling off excess seasoning liquid; the idea of pressing miso or hishio to obtain more tamari (a process which might be compared to extracting apple juice from applesauce), apparently never occurred to people since the lack of efficient pressing equipment would have made it necessary to discard large amounts of the basic food and its nutrients, and the whole foods were considered delicacies in their own right. But during the Muromachi period, an era noted for its affluence, extraction by pressing finally came to be practiced. As better pressing equipment was developed, the waste was reduced and was felt to be compensated for by the versatility of the liquid extract. The development of this process marked an important step in the evolution of today's shoyu, and fermented seasoning liquids came to be much more widely used in daily Japanese cookery.

In about 1384 the Shijo Ryori-sho (a cookbook of the Shijo cooking school) mentioned tamari-like seasonings called tare miso and usu tare . Tare is a thick, slightly sweet, soy-sauce-based liquid?? In 1444 a liquid seasoning called hishio no tare started to be used with sashimi, the now famous raw fish dish. In about 1487 the Hocho Kikigaki gave many recipes using tare miso and explained that it was made by cooks by mixing 1 volume of miso (1.8 liters) with 3.5 volumes of water, simmering the mixture down to 5.4 liters, putting it in a cloth sack and squeezing out the liquid, tare miso . A related liquid seasoning, usu tare, was made by mixing 1 volume of miso with 3 volumes of water, grinding them in a mortar, putting it in a sack, and letting the liquid drip out. In 1489 tare miso and usu tare were also mentioned in the famous cookbook Shijoryu Hochogaki. Tr??

One of the earliest specific references to a liquid extracted from hishio appeared in the Buke Chomi Kojitsu Tr?? of 1537, which contained the statement "Hishio-iri no koto, hishio no shiru." Later writers interpreted hishio-iri to be a liquid extracted from a mixture of soy nuggets ( kuki ) and water (corresponding to China's chiyou or si-yau ) and hishio no shiru to be the liquid extracted from hishio, a predecessor of true shoyu.

The term miso-damari , referring to the rich liquid tamari that settles atop miso during fermentation, seems to have originated during the 1500s, although the product itself may have been used by miso makers long before this time. It was collected by making a hollow in the upper surface of a keg of fully-matured miso, pressing a deep bamboo colander into the hollow, and ladling out the liquid that accumulated in it.

Documents show that miso-damari was prepared by the monks living in the five major temples of Kyoto. The best-known cooking schools of the period are said to have learned how to make it from these temple craftsmen, and thanks to them, to have incorporated the seasoning into their cuisine.

Up until the 1400s, the term tamari had been used to refer to the liquid extracted from either soybean hishio or from soft-textured Kinzanji miso. The latter product eventually came to be known as tamari-shoyu, leaving "tamari" to refer specifically to liquid seasonings made entirely (or almost entirely) from soybeans. The first farmhouse tamari evolved from the process of preparing soybean miso from miso-dama . Additional water was added to form a thick mash ( moromi ), which was then placed in an open-top keg having a spigot at the bottom connected to a large horizontal bamboo pipe perforated with many small holes. A bamboo colander was pressed into the moromi's surface and the liquid that collected in it was ladled daily over the mash to prevent mold formation. After one year, the liquid in the colander was ladled out and the remainder collected from the spigot. This tamari had a thick consistency, a deep chocolate-brown color, and a very distinctive flavor and aroma. It was higher in protein and contained less natural sugars than most miso-damari or than today's shoyu since it was made exclusively from soybeans. The product remaining in the keg was called tamari miso .

In the fiefdoms of Hida and Shiga, where Japan's first farmhouse miso was prepared, tamari was developed as early as the mid-1400s. Starting in about 1610, it experienced a sudden growth in popularity throughout Japan when the retired ruler Tokugawa Ieyasu built a castle at Okazaki near Nagoya and provided the laborers with a generous portion of the tamari whose flavor he loved so dearly. Soon commercial shops had adapted the farmhouse process to large-scale production. To this day, the area of central Japan around Nagoya remains the center of production for this distinctive fermented seasoning, which is now also referred to as nama-damari (fresh tamari) or uwahiki ; the most widely available commercial product is a sweetened mixture called sashimi-damari .

In today's miso shops, the small amount of miso-damari that collects on the surface or settles to the bottom of the vats is never sold commercially. Generally, it is mixed back into the miso to enhance the latter's flavor, but occasionally a small quantity is reserved by the craftsman for personal use. Its flavor is highly prized.

The Development of Shoyu (1500-1700) . Shoyu originated at a surprisingly late date in the history of fermented soyfoods, at least 600 years after miso had emerged as a distinctly Japanese creation. The first written reference to the word shoyu in Japan appeared in 1559 in the Diary of Yamashina Kototsugu ( Kototsugu Yoki ), which stated that the author sent a small keg of shoyu to Nagashi-kyoku in that year. In 1597 (1521??) the word shoyu was published in a Japanese dictionary (Ekirin Bonsetsu Yoshu), thought to have been written by a priest sometime between 1469 and 1503 and circulated in manuscript form. Since this dictionary was widely used by the common people, it is thought that the word shoyu may have been in use as early as the late 1400s, generally in conjunction with the word tamari as "tamari-shoyu." Unfortunately we are not told in what ways this shoyu differed from its predecessors, tamari, miso-damari, tare-miso, and usutare.

The first mention of the word shoyu in a cookbook is found in the Ogusa Ryori-sho ("Cookbook of the Ogusa School") written sometime between 1467 and 1614. Developed by one of Kyoto's two leading cooking-school families, the Ogusas, this cookbook mentioned shoyu frequently in recipes, for example as a seasoning for a type of shellfish ( afurigai ) and, mixed with sake, to season whole broiled eels. However another book by this family from the same period makes no mention of shoyu, but does state that the recipes in the cookbook had long been a family secret, but were finally published due to popular demand. One theory suggests that this shoyu, whatever it was, was developed at an early date by the Ogusa family and used as a secret ingredient that made its cuisine famous; another theory suggests that the word "shoyu" was a later addition to the text.

It is not clear why the new word "shoyu" appeared in Japan at this time. One theory is that, as was the case with miso, it corresponded to the development by Japanese of a new and unique product. A second theory (advanced by the eminent Japanese microbiologist Saito in 1906) is that at this time Japanese soy sauce underwent a significant improvement because of trade and communication with China, which was then a more culturally advanced country. At the time of the name change, Japanese shoyu was basically quite similar to today's Chinese tamari-type soy sauce. But, more important, the new word "shoyu" was written with the thousand-year-old Chinese characters chiang-yu , meaning "soy sauce." It was only after the product received its new (and perhaps more prestigious) name that its popularity began to grow. This evidence would seem to favor the second theory.

Like the word "miso," the new word "shoyu" was slow to catch on, and as late as the 1700s most cookbooks used the term "tamari" almost exclusively.

By the 1500s the tamari developed from Kinzanji miso in the town of Yuasa had begun to form the basis of a small industry. According to oral tradition, in about 1535 Akagiri Uumataro made about 100 koku (18,050 liters or 4,760 gallons) of this shoyu and shipped it by boat to Osaka, to be sold in the markets there. Demand, slow at first, gradually increased, and in the 1550s Kadoya Uumataro and Aburaya Denshichi began to sell a lot?? of shoyu there too. (Osaka city records, however, show that the first shoyu was imported in the 1750s.) From 1591 Yuasa's shoyu started to be shipped by sea to the distant city of Edo (today's Tokyo), which would be declared the new capital in 1600. In that year Akagiri Sangoro of Kishu received a boat for shipping shoyu to the ruler Hideyoshi.

During the period between the late 1500s and the mid-1600s, much of the soy sauce formerly called "tamari" gradually came to be known as "tamari-shoyu." The extensive migrations and unsettled conditions of the period caused by civil wars helped to spread the new term. The tamari-shoyu of this period was prepared from a koji containing cooked soybeans plus roasted barley, which had been crushed or ground. Salt and water were added to form a mash which was fermented for 75 days in open-top kegs, being mixed every 2 weeks. The mature moromi was ladled into coarse-weave sacks and pressed to extract the liquid; the residue was used as fertilizer or fodder.

During the late 1500s, tamari-shoyu gradually began to grow popular in and around Edo, far to the northeast of Yuasa. One town that would later become world famous as the center of Japanese shoyu production was Noda, located in the feudal domain ( kuni ) of Shimousa, about 20 miles north-northwest of Edo/Tokyo, and already famous as a center of miso production. In Noda in about 1560 Mr. Iida Ichiro Heibei made a new variety of tamari-shoyu from hishio and respectfully presented it as tribute taxes to the samurai Takeda Shingen, already known for his interest in miso and dried-frozen tofu. The Iida family, thought to have come from an aristocratic background in the area around Kyoto, fled their homeland during the Onin Wars of the late 1400s. Takeda Shingen used the tamari-shoyu as a seasoning for his army's food, and it quickly grew popular. The flavorful product soon became known by its elegant name: Kawanakajima Goyo Tamari-Shoyu (Tr??). A similar product was first produced commercially in 1574 by Tanaka Kiheibei in Ichikawa of Shimousa. Within several years the output had reached 14,000 gallons a year. Yet it would take another 100 years before today's shoyu, made from equal parts soybeans and cracked roasted wheat, would be developed.

In about 1600 the Edo (also called Tokugawa) period began in Japan, ushering in some 268 years of stability, peace, and isolation. The military leaders (shoguns) located their capital at Edo, which was renamed Tokyo in 1868. The area around Edo and the great Tokyo plain surrounding it was known as Kanto or eastern Japan. The Kyoto-Osaka-Kobe area was known as Kansai, or western Japan. Throughout the early 1600s the Kansai area was the center of both tamari-shoyu production and of traditional culture. Just before this period the famous dish grilled eels ( kabayaki ) started to be made, seasoned with shoyu and sake. In 1610 tamari, now made using only soybeans, salt, and water, started to be produced in Nagoya, central Japan, when the famous Nagoya Castle was built. In 1615 the first major shipping line was established to carry tamari-shoyu from Yuasa, near Osaka, to the burgeoning new capital at Edo, far to the northwest. Yuasa shoyu's market was spreading.

In the early 1600s a number of families making tamari-shoyu in the Yuasa area, following the shipping routes north, moved to Choshi, a seaport town about 60 miles due east of Edo. The families also were fishermen, which may explain why they did not locate closer to Tokyo. A key group of families in this early migration were the Hamaguchis, who had originated as branch households of the main Hamaguchi house from Hiromura village in Kishu (today's Wakayama prefecture). The Hamaguchis of Hiromura were among the earliest to make tamari-shoyu in Yuasa. These Hamaguchi families along with Genba Tanaka and his descendants, started to make shoyu in Choshi in the early 1600s. Higeta brand shoyu was first produced here in 1616, Yamajo in 1630, and Yamasa in 1645. (Higeta and Yamasa shoyu are widely sold to this day.) Also in 1645 a Hamaguchi family from Choshi opened a store in Edo/Tokyo for sale and distribution of shoyu and seafoods from Choshi. There are mountains of documents on the history of Choshi shoyu during the Edo period: the history of Higeta shoyu and the Choshi Shoyu Co. is well told in Shashi: Choshi Shoyu (1972). And while Yamasa, still a private company, has no company history, they have extensive documentation.

Back in Yuasa, shoyu developed the first of its many historical connections with Japan's nobility, as it came under the special protection of the Kishu Han, the lords of the feudal domain in today's Wakayama prefecture. Each shoyu maker was given a special placard, which they even put on their shoyu ships, saying Oshi-ire Shoyu-ya (Tr??), indicating a connection with the feudal lord. The shoyu was used in payment of taxes in Yuasa. As support, the lords lent money to shoyu makers at little or no interest, built sales offices in Edo, Kyoto, and Osaka, and did market development work.

By the 1640s Choshi was the center of shoyu-making in the Kansai area around Edo/Tokyo. In the 1640s tamari-shoyu manufacturers in Choshi began a series of experiments that would dramatically change the history of soy sauce, first in Japan and later around the world. They began to use wheat as one of their raw materials. Initially, they simply combined recipes for wheat hishio and barley hishio, but they soon discovered that roasting and cracking the wheat imparted a wonderful savory aroma to the finished product. Feeling that they had developed a unique seasoning, superior to the best available in Japan, they decided to give it a new name, shoyu--not tamari-shoyu. One unique feature of the new shoyu, in addition to its richer aroma, was its darker color, caused by the use of roasted wheat. To emphasize this uniqueness, the new shoyu came to be called koikuchi (literally "dark mouth") shoyu. Today, this is Japan's regular and most popular shoyu. In 1666 usukuchi (literally "pale mouth") shoyu, a light-colored soy sauce, started to be made in the town of Tatsuno in today's Hyogo prefecture, just east of Kyoto.

Meanwhile competition between the makers in Osaka and Tokyo became intense. In 1650, the tamari-shoyu imported from Osaka was twice as expensive as that made locally, yet it continued to remain the favorite. By 1660 numerous shipping lines from Osaka were in operation.

In 1661 Hyozaemon Takanashi XIX, the earliest of the families that would later unite to form Kikkoman, first began to make tamari-shoyu in Noda. The first Mogi family, now the leading group of families in Kikkoman, began to make shoyu there in 1764, more than a century later.

At the same time that large amounts of tamari-shoyu from the Kyoto-Osaka area were being shipped to Edo/Tokyo, it also started to be exported. Records in The Hague show that between 1668 and 1699 the Japanese product was being shipped by a group of 16 Japanese merchants called the Compradore Comrades ( Konpura Nakama ) to Coromandel in India, Ceylon, and Vietnam, and by Dutch merchants to Holland. The first mention of soy sauce in a Western document appeared in 1679; numerous other references followed as discussed in detail later at "Shoyu and Soy sauce in the West."

In the late 1600s and early 1700s, various Japanese books recorded the new developments concerning shoyu in Japan. In the Wakan Sansai Zukai (Tr??)(1711), which still contains residual Chinese influence, we find a clear distinction between miso, shoyu, and tamari. The word "misho" also appears. Wheat shoyu and barley shoyu are described. Similar methods for making shoyu are described in the Yoshu Fushi (1682), Honcho Shokkan (1695), and Bankin Sangyotai (1732); the method described in the earliest of these three is closest to today's shoyu. Eventually hishio disappeared in Japan, being transformed into miso and shoyu.


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