History of Soy Sauce, Shoyu, and Tamari - Page 6

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A Chapter from the Unpublished Manuscript, History of Soybeans and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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The Postwar Period and Modern Times. After World War II American-led forces occupied Japan a woman named Miss Appleton was officially placed in charge of supervising the revival of Japan's shoyu industry. Basic raw materials for shoyu, as well as foods in general and money to buy food were all in precariously short supply. Shoyu makers had to depend primarily on imported American soybeans allotted by Miss Appleton. Having little knowledge of the traditional methods for making fine shoyu, but wishing to produce a low-cost product quickly and make best use of the available raw materials, she recommended that all producers make quick HVP (chemical) soy sauce instead of the higher-quality fermented product, which would not be ready for a year or more. In 1945 she issued an order that all of Japan's 8,000 shoyu makers should do as she said or forego their quota of soybeans. The producers objected and, fortunately, in 1948 Noda Shoyu Co. announced the development of their patented New-style Shoyu No. 2 (Shinshiki Nigo Shoyu), which they again agreed to share with all makers free of charge. This new compromise process, which combined chemical hydrolysis with fermentation, yielded a product which came to be known as semichemical shoyu (shinshiki shoyu), and which has a better odor than plain chemical shoyu. The quick, new process so impressed Miss Appleton that she permitted allocation of the soybeans to all who used it. In the semichemical process defatted soybean meal was first partially hydrolyzed by dilute (7-8%) hydrochloric acid, then neutralized with sodium hydroxide. Next large amounts of koji, made from wheat bran and flour, were added and the mixture was fermented with osmophilic yeasts for 1-3 months. Still, small amounts of undesirable furfurol and sulfide-like odors not found in fermented shoyu inevitably appeared in the final product (Fukushima 1981).

Two other processes, not widely used before, became very popular during and especially after the war. The first process was for HVP/chemical soy sauce. This product, introduced in the 1920s and now called "amino acid shoyu" ( amino-san shoyu ), required no fermentation and could be sold at a low price, despite its somewhat unpleasant flavor and aroma. Equal parts of soybeans and wheat were mixed with 20% hydrochloric acid, then after several hours the liquid was filtered off, neutralized with sodium hydroxide, mixed with caramel coloring, corn syrup, salt, and water, then pasteurized, bottled and sold. In 1950 the Ajinomoto Co. began to sell a brand of HVP called Mieki or Ajieki, which did not have the MSG removed, and which became widely used. Some large companies, such as Marukin, captured a large share of the market in these lean postwar years by producing large amounts of chemical or semichemical soy sauce.

The second process was for "quick-fermented shoyu" ( sokujo shoyu ) prepared by fermenting the moromi mash at 35-40°C to reduce the required time to 3 or 4 months. Although this shoyu could be produced at a lower cost, it was organoleptically inferior to that fermented at the natural temperature since it contained less glutamic acid and alcohols, less nitrogen, and more organic acids. By the mid-1960s the temperature range had been reduced to 30-35°C, and a lower temperature was used at the beginning to improve the flavor. Recall that traditionally it was said that shoyu started at the coldest time of year was best.

For 5-10 years after the war, little fermented shoyu was made in Japan; its production reached a low in 1949, with most being semichemical or chemical. By 1949 output of all types was sharply on the upswing. With the departure of Miss Appleton and the American-led occupation forces, some shoyu makers returned to their traditional methods, but most (both large and small) continued to use defatted soybeans and the chemical hydrolysis methods, plus the quick-heated fermentation. The traditional practice of blending one, two, and three-year fermented shoyus was largely stopped at the beginning of the war and completely stopped by the 1950s.

Starting in the early 1950s the first chemical preservatives (developed during the war to preserve military rations) were used in shoyu, largely to prevent the growth of several yeasts. Though not toxic, these caused a slight, slow deterioration of the flavor. Problems were caused, above all, by film-forming yeasts ( Saccharomyces and Pichia species), which formed a white film on the shoyu surface if the product was allowed to stand unused for a long time in a warm environment), but also by ring-forming Torulopsis and Zygosaccharomyces bottom-yeasts. Traditionally the surface film was disregarded or lifted off before use; now it came to be seen as more undesirable than the presence of a chemical preservative in the product. The increased use of defatted soybean meal and HVP, which upset the traditional biochemical balance in the shoyu, led to additional problems, including the need to use preservatives. A good-quality fermented shoyu will not have any white yeast films on its surface because it inherently contains natural preservatives, which are yeast static compounds (Yokotsuka 1960). The first widely used preservative was butyl-p-hydroxy benzoate (BPHB); in exports, benzoic acid was generally used since some countries did not allow the BPHB. A higher pasteurization temperature (80°C) started to be used during the war to protect the very dilute shoyu from film-forming yeasts and to give it more flavor, and after the war to dissolve the BPHB preservative. Gradually consumers grew accustomed to the stronger flavor caused by the higher temperature pasteurization so that when, after about 1965, better-quality fermented shoyu came back on the market, the temperature could not be lowered to the traditional optimum lest consumers think the new product was different and thus inferior (Yokotsuka, 1960, 1964).

In 1949 the Japanese government withdrew its ban on exports of shoyu and in 1950 it eliminated wartime shoyu price controls and disbanded its Public Distribution Corporation. Free competition began again. Most manufacturers tried to upgrade the quality of their shoyu and to modernize their equipment, yet many small- and medium-sized companies, lacking capital for modernization and labor for koji-making, continued to make HVP soy sauce as they struggled to compete with the big nationally-oriented companies. The smaller shoyu companies generally made and marketed their shoyu to suit local or regional tastes.

Varieties of shoyu made with acid-hydrolyzed ingredients reached their peak of popularity in the early 1960s. In 1960 most regular Japanese shoyu contained 50% or more chemical hydrolysate (HVP). In 1962 American soybeans started to be imported duty free. Then in 1963 the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry ( Norinsho ), with the support of the Japanese Shoyu Association, set the first Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS) for shoyu; fermented shoyu was still allowed to contain up to 80% HVP. By 1964 HVP constituted only 30% of Japan's total shoyu volume and 20% of the total was still semichemical shoyu. Only a few of the larger manufacturers produced the best quality product requiring fermentation for more than a year (Yokotsuka 1960, 1964). Ichiyama in 1968 estimated that about 50% of all shoyu was quick shoyu and (partially included in this) about 40% of the total yield was HVP shoyu, with higher grades containing 30% HVP and lower grades 70%, added to fermented shoyu. An estimated 80% of all shoyu makers used some HVP. However the country was becoming more affluent and consumers were willing to pay a little more for their favorite seasoning, so between 1964 and 1970 the major makers (Kikkoman, Yamasa, Higeta) all stopped using HVP and returned to making fermented shoyu, although generally 85% of the soybeans were defatted. It is interesting to note that at this time and up to the present in America, the most widely used soy sauce was nonfermented HVP soy sauce, the poorest grade in Japan, which would be discontinued altogether there in the 1970s. By 1964 only 0.2% of all Japanese shoyu was exported, but the amount was increasing.

Starting in the 1960s Japan's shoyu industry made major technological advances, transforming itself into one of the most modern and sophisticated fermentation industries in East Asia. There was a steady increase in shoyu plant mechanization, as technology and elaborately instrumented control systems replaced traditional craftsmen in sprawling factories. There were continuous cookers and roasters, automatic conveyors, pumps and pipelines, compressed air systems for mixing the mash, powerful vertical and horizontal presses (which increased the pressure in 2 or 3 steps up to 100 kg per square centimeter (1,420 lb per square inch) and left less than 25% moisture in the 2-mm thick, tan presscake), heat exchangers, and high-speed bottling machines. Various systems were joined by closed feedback control mechanisms, which were later linked to computers. In about 1964 epoxy/resin coated tanks for moromi mash fermentation were introduced; their numbers soon passed those of traditional cedar vats (many of which were still used in 1984), but could not match the large number of concrete vats.

Research also advanced rapidly after 1960, the most popular subjects being shoyu microorganisms and flavor compounds, plus the eternal theme of how to produce a better product, faster, with higher nitrogen recovery, at a lower price (Yokotsuka, 1960, 1964, 1981). Much work was done on the three key but difficult shoyu processes: culturing the mold, stirring the koji mass, and heat treatment/pasteurization. The most popular journal for shoyu articles (in Japanese) was the Bulletin of the Agricultural Chemical Society of Japan (Nippon Nogei Kagaku Kaishi).

More fundamentally, there were six processing developments which, combined, had a major impact on shoyu production:

1. In 1955 Yamamoto used x-ray radiation to induce mutation in a strain of Aspergillus oryzae so that it had 2-3 times the proteolytic activity of the traditional strains. Subsequently new strains of koji molds, yeasts, and bacteria, each with increased enzyme activity, were developed by induced mutations or by diploid formation (Expl??).

2. By the early 1970s it had become a common practice to add pure culture strains of yeasts ( Saccharomyces rouxii and occasionally Torulopsis spp .) and bacteria to the moromi mash to accelerate the fermentation and improve the shoyu quality. The yeasts were usually added to the mash when its pH had dropped to 5.3, typically 3-4 weeks after the mash was made.

3. In 1962 large-scale mechanical koji fermentation equipment first began to replace the small, traditional, hand-filled and hand-stirred koji trays. The initial design consisted of a large stainless steel box about 21 by 42 feet and 16 inches deep (6.5 by 13 by 0.4 meters). It had a perforated bottom and was set inside a closed chamber equipped with temperature and humidity controls and a mechanical koji stirrer that ran on tracks the length of the box. Filtered air at 30°C (the traditional incubation temperature was 35°C) was forced up through the bottom of the box periodically. In about 1976 a continuous-process (non-batch) design was developed consisting of a donut shaped revolving room that was roughly?? 50-100 feet in diameter; new koji was continuously put into the room and finished koji removed automatically one rotation later. Studies done in these automatic koji fermenters showed that the koji was done (i.e., the koji enzymes reached their maximum concentration) after 48-52 hours, thus saving 20-24 hours of koji incubation time; longer incubation led to sporulation. The new mechanized koji system reduced contamination and increased the protease activity of the koji by 43% compared with the traditional koji tray method; this resulted in an 8% increase in shoyu yield (Fukushima 1980).

4. Improved methods for pressure cooking soybeans or defatted soybean meal had long been under development. In 1938 Kawano (Ref??) found that the highest enzymatic digestibility of the cooked soybeans and the highest amino acid content of the finished shoyu were obtained by pressure cooking the beans at 0.5 kg per square cm. In 1955 Kikkoman (Ref??) was granted an open patent on what they called the NK pressure cooking method, whereby the soybeans were cooked at 0.8 kg/cm2 in a rotary cooker for ?? minutes, then immediately cooled to below 40°C by reducing the inside pressure with the aid of a jet condenser to prevent over-cooking. This NK method increased protein digestibility from 69% up to 73%. In 1966 Yokotsuka and co-workers (Ref??) at Kikkoman found that a higher temperature and shorter cooking time (HTST) increased the enzymatic digestibility of the protein to 93%, while also improving the shoyu flavor. In October 1971 Kikkoman (Ref??) was issued a patent for a new process for HTST cooking of defatted soybean flakes (7 kg per square cm for 15 seconds) which further increased the enzymatic digestibility. By 1976 it was shown that these new cooking conditions substantially affected shoyu yields; also the soybeans started to be cooked in a continuous cooker.

5. Before World War II Japanese shoyu manufacturers used almost only whole soybeans instead of defatted soybean meal. (why??) During the war the percentage of the whole soybeans that was replaced by defatted soybean flakes ( kakko daizu ) rose rapidly, then in the postwar period reached 88% by 1963 and 95% by 1977. While reducing costs, fermentation time (from 18 down to 11 months for highest glutamic acid content), and need to discard shoyu oil, the defatted flakes also had disadvantages: inferior stability of the finished shoyu to oxidation and heating, lower glycerol content and higher acidity from lactic acid, and a little difficulty in the yeast fermentation (Yokotsuka 1964). Nevertheless, all the major shoyu manufacturers switched to defatted soybean flakes. Flakes heated less, using a lower boiling point hexane solvent extraction of the oil, were found to have a higher nitrogen solubility index (NSI of 20-30 vs. 10 for typical defatted meal). Because the nitrogen in the meal was more soluble. more nitrogen was recovered in the final shoyu.

6. More sophisticated methods of gently controlling the temperature of the moromi mash were developed to reduce fermentation time with little or no loss in flavor. During the warm months, the koji was mixed with salt water at 0°C to keep the temperature of the new mash below 15°C for at least 15 days. After 1 month it was incubated at 30°C, which allowed it to be finished in 6 months.

There were three major effects of these and other processing changes. First, the percentage of nitrogen recovered in the shoyu from the raw materials increased from about 60% in the mid-1930s to 75-80% by 1964 and to about 90% by 1975. By the latter year, 100 kg of moromi was yielding 89.3 kg of shoyu and 10.7 kg of shoyu cake. Second, the fermentation was dramatically reduced. As late as 1967 large shoyu makers still fermented their shoyu for 12-18 months or, in some cases, sold a blend of 1-year and 2-year fermented shoyus. But as the new processing techniques were developed and economic conditions became more intense, the total fermentation time began to decrease until by 1980 it was generally only 4-6 months for fermented shoyu. And third, the inflation-adjusted cost to produce a unit volume of shoyu steadily decreased.

How about quality? Although all of the major shoyu makers have switched entirely to the use of hexane-defatted soybean flakes and a temperature-controlled fermentation, they claim that the use of modern scientific fermentation techniques and close control over the fermentation process variables has made it possible for them to produce a product that is consistently at least as good as the best traditional shoyu and that sells for a considerably lower price. The use of chromatographic techniques has made it possible to make regular, quick, and very precise visual analyses of the flavor components in shoyu to analyze and regulate quality, and to compare the flavor profile of two or more products.

Starting in the 1970s, with the growing concern about food additives and interest in more natural foods in Japan, the use of preservatives in shoyu came under attack. In 1975 major manufacturers began to omit chemical preservatives and add a small amount (0.5-1%) of alcohol (ethanol; the same as found in wine or beer) to raise the total alcohol content over 2.5%. Some makers bottled the shoyu aseptically to avoid the use of even alcohol. By 1981 more than 50% of all Japanese shoyu contained no preservatives except ethanol.

A sweeping overview of the main developments in the Japanese shoyu industry from 1888 to the present is shown in Figure 18.1. Production rose steadily with population increases from about 220,000 kl in 1890 to 1,200,000 ?? kl (317 million gallons) in 1980. The number of manufacturers dropped from a high of 10,600 in 1888 (Kellner 1895), to 8,000 just after World War II, then rapidly down to 3,135 in 1980.

A 1965 survey of Japan's shoyu industry showed that the majority of the manufacturers (52.5%) produced less than 54 kl (14,266 gallons) a year, however the total production of all these small companies accounted for only 5.1% of the total. The 18 largest companies, all of which made more than 5,400 kl (1,426,600 gallons) a year, accounted for 43.4% of the total production. Moreover, the postwar modernization led to a growing concentration of control in the industry by the "Big Five" makers (Kikkoman, Yamasa, Higashimaru, Higeta, and Marukin). Their market share rose from 33% of the total production in 1964 to 37.2% in 1967, up to 50% by 1978. And the next 50 largest companies controlled an additional 25% of total market. One of the most dramatic postwar developments in the industry was the rapid rise in Kikkoman's market share from a low of 8% in 1946 to 18% in 1960, 30% in 1970, and 42% in 1980 (Fig. ??; the reasons for this rise are discussed in Chapter 74).

During the past century, per capita consumption of shoyu changed considerably. It rose to its first peak of 11 liters per capita in 1924, plunged to an all-time low of 4.2 liters just after World War II (1947), skyrocketed to an all-time peak of 12.1 liters in 1956 as part of the postwar boom, then dropped back down to about 10.1 liters during the 1970s with the Westernization of dietary habits and the concern about excess salt consumption. In 1981, 44% of Japan's shoyu was consumed in homes and 56% was used in institutions and by the food industry (Yokotsuka 1981). The Japanese got roughly 50% of their daily salt (NaCl) from shoyu.

In 1980 the Japanese shoyu industry employing 20,000 workers, used 186,000 tonnes (metric tons) of soybeans (mostly defatted soybean meal) to produce 1,189,000 kl of shoyu containing 6.9% protein and worth ?? $1,154 million.

The Japanese Agricultural Standards (JAS), established for shoyu in 1963, were revised in July 1970 with Norinsho Notification #974. They recognized five basic varieties of shoyu, as shown in Figure 18.2. Companies choosing voluntarily to make their shoyu to these standards may print the JAS mark on its label. Let us take a brief look at each variety:

Regular Shoyu (koikuchi) , which includes both modern shoyu (as made by the Big Five) and traditional shoyu, is by far the most popular type, accounting in 1977 for 85.4% of the total. Prized for its distinctive appetizing flavor and aroma, it is used nationwide.

Regular shoyu also comes in some special forms: unpasteurized shoyu (kijoyu) is considered by some to be shoyu at its peak of flavor; low-salt or milder shoyu , first developed in 1965 for use in hospitals and sold commercially from 1966, typically contains 8-9% salt. About half of the typical salt is removed by ion exchange membrane after pressing, then the shoyu is bottled and pasteurized in the bottle. it is widely exported to the US; dehydrated or powdered shoyu , first developed during World War II and commercialized by Kikkoman during the 1970s, is made by spray drying regular shoyu. It is widely used in dry mixes such as instant ramen noodle broth, beef jerky, and sausages; Hawaiian-style shoyu (amakuchi) is regular shoyu with a slightly sweeter flavor (from added sugar) and lower salt content (16%).

Light-colored Shoyu (usukuchi) is light amber in color and has a milder flavor and higher salt content than regular shoyu (19.6 vs 17.5%). Used primarily in the Kyoto-Osaka area in light soups, simmered dishes (nimono), and with sashimi (sliced raw fish) and grilled preparations, it is meant to season foods, while allowing them to retain their natural colors and flavors.

Light-colored shoyu is said to have originated in 1966?? in Tatsuno City, Hyogo prefecture, just east of Kyoto, where it was first made by Maruoya Sonuemon?? Regular shoyu is said to have been made in Tatsuno since 1587, and by the late 1500s both shoyu and sake production were widespread. The sake makers gradually focused their efforts on shoyu, shipping their product by river to Kyoto and Osaka. In about 1809 they first started adding soybean cooking liquid to the moromi and thick sweet sake ( amazake ; saccharified rice koji mash) to the aged moromi mash before pressing. By 1830 some 35 producers were making about 3,600 kl a year. In 1876, amidst intense competition and oversupply, the shoyu makers drew up plans for market sharing, then in 1899 formed a cartel or trade association, which exists today as the Tatsuno Shoyu Kyoto Kumiai. By 1937 Tatsuno Shoyu, taken as a unit, was the fifth largest shoyu producer in Japan, with 2.1% of the national market. Tatsuno shoyu was by far the most famous light-colored shoyu; by 1949 the Association's 65 members were making 36,000 kl. During World War ?? all production of this shoyu was stopped by the government; only regular shoyu was made. In the postwar period Higashimaru Shoyu K.K. in Tatsuno City, a member of the trade association, emerged as by far the largest maker of light-colored shoyu (Tatsuno Shoyu 1960); in 1981 they had an output of 54,000 kl. After about 1960 this shoyu started to be made all over Japan. In the late 1960s many of the small makers in Tatsuno got low-interest loans from the Japanese government to build new plants, which greatly expanded production.

Like regular shoyu, this shoyu is made with equal parts soybeans and wheat. The lighter color is obtained by changing the water during and after cooking, roasting the wheat less, incubating the koji less with a special strain of Aspergillus mold, using more water and salt in the moromi mash, doing a shorter mash fermentation, adding amazake before pressing (which also balances the saltiness), and pasteurizing the finished product at a lower temperature for a shorter time (60°C for 25 min.).

Tamari-Shoyu. a close relative of Chinese soy sauce, is made with a large percentage of soybeans (80-100%) and little or no wheat (0-20%, average 10%). Tamari is also different from other types of shoyu in that the koji is made in small balls ( miso-dama ). The wheat in tamari-shoyu is used primarily to provide the gluten necessary to form the balls when defatted soybean meal is used. There is no legal limit on the amount of wheat that can be used in tamari-shoyu. Produced and consumed mostly in central Japan (Aichi, Mie, and Gifu prefectures) it has a slightly darker color, richer consistency, and deeper flavor than regular shoyu, but with somewhat less of the latter's characteristic aroma from ester-type compounds and alcohols derived from wheat. According to San-jirushi, the largest manufacturers of tamari-shoyu, in descending order of size, are San-Jirushi, Yamami, Nakagawa Jozo, Ichibiki, and Yamaizumi (Morita). San-Jirushi, located in Mie prefecture, was founded in 1804 and made about 8,000 kl of shoyu (all tamari??) in 1980. All the other makers listed above, and the next four largest makers as well, are located in Aichi prefecture. Prior to 19?? tamari was called simply "tamari," rather than "tamari-shoyu." The switch is said to have been made under the political influence of the large shoyu makers. Historically, the tamari makers claim, shoyu should be classified as a type of shoyu, rather than the other way around. The earliest scientific investigations of tamari were done by Saito in 1906. Shurtleff and Aoyagi (1980) have given a detailed description of the modern tamari-making process.

Clear Shoyu (shiro), a light-colored shoyu produced and consumed on a small scale in the Nagoya and Kyoto areas, made with only 2 parts soybeans to 8 parts wheat. The soybeans are roasted and the wheat is steamed. The moromi mash is aged for only 1-3 months.

Rich Shoyu (saishikomi), traditionally known as kanro shoyu (literally "sweet dew"), is the least widely known type of shoyu in Japan. It is made like regular shoyu except that unpasteurized (raw) shoyu is used in place of brine to make the moromi mash, giving the finished product a rich, subtly sweet flavor, some thick consistency, and dark brown color. It is prized in the Kyoto area and further southwest, being served mainly sprinkled over sashimi and sushi. Rich shoyu is said to have originated in 1781 in Yanai City of Yamaguchi prefecture on the far southwest tip of Japan's main island, just north of the island of Kyushu. The first maker, Takada, offered the shoyu to lord Yoshikawa and received the "sweet dew" ( kanro ) of his appreciation, whence the shoyu derived its name. It kept this name until the 1960s, when the government set shoyu standards and renamed it saishikomi ("re-fermented") or saisei ("remade") shoyu. The center of production remains Yamaguchi prefecture; the largest makers, in decreasing order of size, are Yanai Shoyu K.K., Sagawa Shoyu Ten, and K.K. Shimaya. A fair amount of semifermented rich shoyu is now made in Tottori, Shimane, and Hiroshima prefectures, and it is now beginning to spread throughout Japan.

Japanese standards allow each of these five varieties to be made by either of three different processes. Note that in Japan all shoyu contains at least some fermented shoyu.

Basic Fermentation process (honjozo hoshiki) is the traditional process in which all hydrolysis is done by enzymes from microorganisms without the use of chemicals (hydrochloric acid). In 1979 some 70% of Japan's bottled shoyu was made by this process.

Semichemical Mixed Process (shinshiki hoshiki) involves partially hydrolyzing defatted soybean meal with dilute hydrochloric acid, fermenting this product with wheat koji for at least 1 but typically 2 months, extracting the semifermented shoyu, then mixing it with various percentages of fermented shoyu. No more than 50% of the nitrogen may come from HVP hydrolyzed with hydrochloric acid or this acid and enzymes, and no more than 30% can come from enzyme-hydrolyzed HVP. About 25% of Japanese shoyu is made in this way.

Chemical Mixed Process (aminosan kongo hoshiki) involves hydrolyzing defatted soybean meal with concentrated hydrochloric acid, extracting the HVP liquid, then mixing it with some fermented shoyu; only 5% of Japanese shoyu is made in this way.

One additional category in Japan's new standards is "naturally fermented" ( tennen jozo ), which is defined as containing no additives (such as HVP, enzymes, preservatives, etc.) other than alcohol. Thus a shoyu made from defatted soybean meal under temperature controlled quick fermentation and containing added alcohol preservative is classified as being officially no different from a product made in the traditional, natural way. This regulation, passed under the influence of the large modern makers, hurt the small traditional makers that used to sell their real traditional product as "naturally fermented" at premium prices.

Finally, each of the five varieties of shoyu is classified into one of three grades determined by organoleptic evaluation, total nitrogen content, soluble solids other than NaCl, and color. Special Grade ( tokyu ), assigned to high-quality shoyu made by the action of microorganisms, without the use of chemical or enzymatic hydrolysates, constituted 53% of the total in 1976. Upper Grade ( tokyu ) was 24% of the total and Standard Grade ( hyojun ) was 13% of the total. The remaining 8% was either non-JAS mark or a higher grade than the others, Special Select Grade ( tokusen ), which is not recognized by JAS. This latter term was developed for special use by a few companies, such as Kikkoman. It was Kikkoman's export brand before they built their US shoyu plant. The total nitrogen was 1.65%. The shoyu made in the US by Kikkoman in 1981 was Upper Grade. In Japan, the only shoyu in which Kikkoman used whole soybeans (mixed with defatted soybean meal) was their Special Select Grade. Recently an even higher unofficial grade was established, Super Special Select Grade ( shotokusen ).

The dominant force in the Japanese shoyu industry after World War II has been Kikkoman. The company's history is given in Chapter 74.


Soy sauce, like miso, has a surprisingly long history in Europe. The earliest references date from the late 1600s, the first century of the Tokugawa period in Japan, shortly after the first wheat had been used in making shoyu.

The 1600s and 1700s . In 1600 England founded the East India Company (VOC) and in 1601 launched the first ships to trade with East Asia. Holland started its own East India Company in 1602. Dutch ships arrived in Hirado and began trade with Japan in 1609. The English traded at Japanese ports from 1613 to 1623. Then in 1635 Japan closed its doors to most trade with the West. The well-behaved Dutch, however, were an exception and by 1641, when their trading station was moved from Hirado to Deshima, near Nagasaki, they were the only European nation allowed to trade with isolationist Tokugawa Japan.

The men in Dutch trading posts throught Asia soon learned about Japanese shoyu and miso, and began to order it from their trading post at Deshima. The earliest know export of shoyu from Japan was from the Dutch trading post in Deshima to other Dutch trading posts in Asia.

Tamura and Hirano (1971) reported, without citation, that during the reign of Louis XIV of France (1643-1715), the Dutch exported shoyu from Japan to the French court, where this expensive seasoning was served and prized as a great delicacy at the King's sumptuous palace banquets. (Redo??) However Ichiyama's authoritative history of shoyu does not mention this.

Ichiyama (1968) mentioned that there were early shipping records from the Hague, Holland, showing that in 1668 12 kegs of shoyu had been sent to the Coromandel Coast in the vicinity of Madras, southeast India. In 1670 shoyu had been shipped to Ceylon (today's Sri Lanka); in 1677 and 1681 to Surat, Ceylon, and Coromandel; in 1681 to Vietnam, as a present to the king; and in 1699 to Ceylon. The exports from Japan, especially to the Dutch, were arranged largely by a group of 16 merchants called the Compradore Companions ( Konpura Nakama or Shoshoku Urikomi Shonin ), headed by Hyozaemon Koyanagi and Kyuzaemon Sameya. They were given special permission to trade during the period of isolation. It is not clear whether Japanese or Dutch ships and companies actually carried the shoyu abroad.

The English also took an early interest in shoyu and, in fact, the earliest reference to soy sauce by a European in the West comes from John Locke in England. In 1679 he wrote in his journals, "Puddings of several sorts and creams of several fashions, both excellent, but they are seldom to be found, at least in their perfection, at common eating-houses. Mango and Saio are two sorts of sauces brought from the East Indies." Locke's "Saio" was almost certainly " shoyu " (King 1858; first cited in Yule and Burnell 1903).

Many mysteries surround the early import of shoyu to England. When was the first shoyu imported to England, prior to 1679? Was it brought by the East India Trading Co. (which was not allowed to trade directly with Japan) or by the Dutch company, which was?? Later references (Refs??) seem to indicate that, starting in 1677, the shoyu may have been shipped by the Japanese to the British East India Company's trading center at Surat on the west coast of India, about 150 miles north of Bombay. From there the British may have transshipped it to England with spices from India. One wonders if, to save the expensive shipping, shoyu was ever made in India at an early date. And if so, by whom?? Was any Chinese shoyu imported to Europe during the period 1600-1800?? It probably was.

In 1688 another Englishman, Dampier (Ref 1906??), made the second known reference to soy sauce, giving it the name "soy," which stuck for almost 250 years.

I have been told that soy is made with a fishy composition, and that it seems most likely to the Taste; tho' a Gentleman of my Acquaintance who was very intimate with one that sailed often from Tonquin to Japan, from when the true Soy comes, told me that it was made only with Wheat and a sort of Beans, mixt with Water and Salt.

In 1690 the Englishman Ovington, in his book A Voyage to Surat , after a long description of largely Indian dishes served at the British post, noted that "Bambou and Mangoe Achar [pickle], Souy the choicest of all Sawces, are always ready to whet the Appetite," apparently indicating both the high esteem in which shoyu was held and its widespread use, at least among the British, in India (Ovington 1696).

It is important to note that shoyu came to Europe before soybeans, the latter having arrived by about 1739?? and was much better known in Europe than soybeans for several hundred years after its arrival. In fact, as explained in Chapter 4, the soybean almost certainly got its European names from shoyu (soy), and not the other way around. In 1690 the German traveler and scientist Kaempfer, who had visited Japan from 1690 to 1692, wrote in his History of Japan , "Soyu is exported by the Dutch and brought even into Holland." In 1691-92, he wrote the first detailed description in the West of the method for making shoyu. This was published in 1712 in his Amoenitatum Exoticarum . His full 200-word description appears in Chapter 49 of our book. Kaempfer called shoyu "Sooju" and explained for the first time that it was made with soybeans, plus an equal quantity of either barley or wheat fermented together after natural inoculation, that the brine fermentation took 2-3 months or longer, and that the presscake from the first pressing was washed with water and re-pressed.

The first European to compare Japanese shoyu with Chinese jiangyou was Osbeck in 1751. He wrote "Soya, or the Tyong-yao of the Chinese, ( Dolichos Soja Linn.) the Japan Soya, is better and dearer than the Chinese. For its preparation see Kaempfer Amoenitatum p. 839." This is also the first known use of the word "soya," initially applied to shoyu, and later used to refer to the soybean. (Osbeck 1771).

In 1775-76 the Swedish botanist and doctor Carl P. Thunberg visited Japan for 14 months, staying mostly at Nagasaki but also visiting the capital at Edo (Tokyo). In his Voyages , published in French 1796, he noted that "Miso or soya constitutes the principal food of the Japanese. People on all levels, great or small, rich or poor, eat them several times a day, year round." After giving a description of how soy sauce was made, apparently borrowed from Kaempfer ??, he concluded:

The tea of Japan is inferior to that of China. However Japanese "soya" [le soya du Japon] is preferable to that of the Chinese. It is shipped in numerous vats to Batavia [today's Jakarta, Indonesia], India, and Europe. The Dutch have found a way to protect it from the effects of heat and to preserve the fermentation. They boil it in an iron pot, funnel it into bottles, and seal the mouth of each with pitch. This liquid retains all its `force' and can be mixed with all other sauces.

Note that this took place long before Appert's invention of canning in 1809 and Pasteur's invention of pasteurization in 1862. In fact, pasteurization of shoyu and sake had been practiced for 200-300 years before Thunberg's time. The bottles of which Thunberg was speaking were handsome ones made of white ceramic, with words such as "Soy Manufactured by Sollonyama, Nagasaki, Japan" written on them??. They were collectors pieces in Europe. Tolstoy (1828-1910) proudly owned and displayed one as a flower vase in his living room in Russia.

Shoyu must have been fairly popular in England by the mid-1700s. The well-known British author Elizabeth David (personal communication) remembers seeing a silver "Soy" label, for hanging around a bottle, dating from about 1740, in the Victoria and Albert Museum. But the product was not well known. Mrs. Charlotte Mason's The Ladies' Assistant (1786, Ref?? London, New Ed.) states that "soy is made from mushrooms which grow in the woods" (in the East Indies).

During the late 1700s travelers from many countries described shoyu. In 1764 the Swedish captain C.G. Ekeberg wrote a 3-page article about shoyu entitled "Om Chinesiska Soyan." In 1821 Isaac Titsing, writing in Dutch, gave a detailed description of how soy sauce was made in Indonesia. In 1793 Loureiro, writing in Latin, mentioned that from soybeans "is made the famous Japanese soy sauce called Soia, which the Chinese and Cochin Chinese (Vietnamese) frequently use for cooking food and stimulating the appetite.


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