History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Hawaii (1847-2021)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-948436-05-5

Publication Date: 2021 May 20

Number of References in Bibliography: 1225

Earliest Reference: 1847

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Brief Chronology/Timeline of Soy in the Hawaiian Islands

1778 – Captain James Cook arrives in two ships at Kauai. He is the first European to make formal contact with what we call today the Hawaiian Islands. The people are astonished to see two "floating islands" carrying strange white-skinned men. Cook names the archipelago the “Sandwich Islands” after the fourth Earl of Sandwich – the acting First Lord of the Admiralty.

1779 Feb. 14 – Captain James Cook is killed by Hawaiians at Kealakekua Bay, on the big island of Hawaii as he attempts to kidnap their ruling chief. For details see “Death of James Cook” on Wikipedia.

1847 June 5 – Soy sauce is the earliest soyfood known to exist in the Hawaiian Islands. It has been imported aboard the ship Mary from China and is auctioned in Honolulu by Henry Skinner & Co. (Ad in The Polynesian, p. 3, col. 3).

1868 – The first group of Japanese immigrants (149 people) arrives in the Hawaiian Islands aboard the Saioto-go (“Scioto”). Their provisions include rice, miso and shoyu (soy sauce), the 2nd earliest soyfoods know to exist in the Islands (Sakuma Yonekichi, unpublished diary).

1886 May 25 – Tofu is now being made in the area of Honolulu, probably by Chinese (Hawaiian Gazette, p. 2).

1891 June – The first Japanese who lived in Hawaii and brewed shoyu there was Jihachi/Haruhachi Shimada, who originally came from Yamaguchi-ken, Japan. He started in June 1891 and tried to make shoyu on a large scale. But bad transportation made it difficult for him to expand his market. This plus lack of capital forced him to quit (Morita 1915, p. 260).

This is the earliest known soyfood product manufactured by a Japanese in the Western world. It is not known where the soybeans used to make this shoyu were grown.

1893 – Hawaii ceases to be a kingdom, were all land is owned by the monarchy. The last Hawaiian monarch was Queen Lili’uokalani, who was deposed in Jan. 1893 in a U.S.-backed coup led by Sanford Dole and other American sugar and pineapple planters who took over the Hawaiian government and pressed the United States to annex the islands.

Two years later, after a failed insurrection by the queen’s supporters to return her to power, she was charged with treason and placed under house arrest.

While under arrest at Washington Place, she wrote a marvelous book, Hawaii’s Story by Hawaii’s Queen, which was basically her memoir/autobiography. It was published in 1898 by Lee & Shepard. She also wrote the beautiful and immortal song, Aloha Oe (Farewell to Thee).

1898 Aug. 12 – Hawaii is annexed as a U.S. territory. The annexation ceremony was held at ‘Iolani Palace. President Sanford B. Dole handed over “the sovereignty and public property of the Hawaiian Islands” to United States Minister Harold M. Sewall. The flag of the Republic of Hawaii was lowered and the flag of the United States was raised in its place. Lili'uokalani and her family members and retainers boycotted the event and shuttered themselves away at Washington Place. Many native Hawaiians and royalists followed suit and refused to attend the ceremony. On that day the long struggle for native sovereignty began; it is continued by some to this day.

1899 Oct. – Soy bean seeds are now in the Hawaiian Islands. A collection of seeds originally from China, is presented by Hon. Byron O. Clark, of Wahiawa, Oahu, October, 1899 (Foreign Seeds and Plants Imported by the Section of Seed and Plant Introduction, USDA, Inventory No. 8. 1 Jan. 1901).

1900 April – A small factory making Kenfu (“Wise Woman”) brand shoyu is established by a learned Japanese (Nobuyuki Yamakami) is in full swing in Honolulu at the junction of Punchbowl street and Pauao road. The company makes a sweet soy sauce from soy-beans grown in Japan (Pacific Commercial Advertiser. 1900. April 14, p. 14).

By 1905 the company has been renamed Hawaii Soy Co. Ltd. (Hawaii Shoyu K.K.) and is now located at Pua Lane near King in Honolulu. By 1915 the company produced 630,000 liters or 166,600 gallons of shoyu (Hawaii Hojin Katsuyaki Shi).

1901 – The Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station is founded outside of Honolulu on the island of Oahu. Jared G. Smith is in charge. Not until 1907 did Hawaii get a land grant agricultural college, named the College of Agriculture and Mechanical Arts – and a program of instruction begins.

1905 Jan. – Soy beans are now almost certainly being cultivated in Hawaii; George T. Moore sends 2 packages of inoculant between Nov. 1902 and Nov. 1904 (USDA Bureau of Plant Industry, Bulletin, No. 71).

1905-06 – The earliest known commercial soy product made in the Hawaiian Islands is Kikko-Ki Soy Sauce, made by T. Terada Shoten. By 1915 the business had been renamed Terada Shoyu Jozo-sho and made 166,600 gallons of shoyu that year (Negoro 1915).

1909 – Frederick G. Krauss, an agronomist in Hawaii, collects about 40 soybean varieties in China and Japan. In 1910 he adds them to the already large collection under test at the Pensacola Street Station. He collected more there in 1927 and 1936 (Honolulu Advertiser, 18 Feb. 1940, p. 42).

1910 – One hundred soybean varieties are now under comparative test at the Pensacola Street Station in Honolulu (Honolulu Advertiser, 18 Feb. 1940, p. 42).

1911 May – The soybean variety O-too-tan (also spelled Otootan) is now in Hawaii at the College of Hawaii. “This variety is undoubtedly the coarsest, rankest soy bean ever grown by this station. It is also most tolerant of both dry and wet conditions, but only makes a rank growth during a cool and moist growing period” (Sahr 1914; Krauss 1940. p. 42).

1911 Sept. – An estimated 200,000 pounds per year of soybeans are now grown in the Hawaiian Islands, especially in the Kona District of the big island of Hawaii. This amount is far less than the local demand of the Islands. About 2.5 million pounds of soybeans are being imported into Hawaii each year (Krauss 1911. “Leguminous Crops for Hawaii.” Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station, Bulletin No. 23, p. 23-24).

1914 March 16 – C.A. Sahr writes “Report of the Assistant Agronomist” in the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station, Annual Report for the year 1913. The subsection on “Soy bean” (p. 46-49) states: “Soy beans were grown more or less extensively by Japanese farmers in Kona to defray expenses while their coffee trees came into bearing, finding a ready market for culinary purposes and also among local soy sauce brewers. Since the coffee orchards now demand the entire attention of the growers, the soy brewers depend upon soy beans imported from Japan for their supply.

“The brewing of Japanese soy sauce having become a well-established industry in Hawaii, a visit of inspection to several of the largest factories was made to ascertain the method of manufacture, which is given here briefly...”

The brewers buy imported soy beans at $72 per ton in Honolulu, wheat at $40, and salt at $10. The tubs in which the soy sauce is put up are made of Japanese cedar, shipped knocked down from Japan, and put together as wanted. The cost per tub is from 40 to 70 cents, according to their capacity, which ranges from 4½ to 6 gallons. Soy sauce is eaten by all classes of Japanese as a table sauce, with their rice, fish, and meats. It has the color of strong black coffee.

"Miso, another Japanese table sauce, is brewed from soy beans and rice…The climate of Hawaii is too warm for its manufacture."

1915 Aug. – A report is issued on The Demand for Japanese Shoyu in Honolulu, by HachirĊ Arita the Japanese consulate in Honolulu, to Mr. Shigenobu Okuma at the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, states:

Shoyu imports from Japan are 80,807 taru (1.309 million liters). Production by 4 Japanese companies in Hawaii is about 4,200 koku (756,000 liters). Domestic production is up by 20% over last year.

1923 – The earliest known tofu manufacturers in Hawaii apparently all started in 1923 in Honolulu:(1) Yasuzo Tanouye Tofu, in business by Jan. 1923 at 1612 Colburn, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii (2) Yazaemon Ono Tofu, at 1131b Kapahulu Ave., Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. (3) H. Iwanaga Daufu, at Rear 1031 Aala, Honolulu, Oahu, Hawaii. Residence same (Hawaii City Directory).

In 1924: M. Kaneko General Store & Tofu Manufacturer at Holualoa, Island of Hawaii.

1934 July 15 – “The nutritive value of green immature soybeans,” by Carey D. Miller and Ruth C. Robins is published in the Journal of Agricultural Research (p, 161-67). Both women are nutritionists at the Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station.

1940 – Dr. Frederick G. Krauss, an agronomist in Hawaii writes a long article, titled “Diversified Agriculture in Hawaii,” with seven consecutive parts devoted to the soybean (Honolulu Advertiser, Feb. 18 to April 14).

He notes that Hawaii now imports some 2.5 million pounds of soybeans per year to make soyfoods such as tofu, miso, shoyu, etc. Large quantities of soybean meal are also imported, at a cost of $40 to $50 per ton, to feed to livestock.

1959 Aug. 21 – Hawaii – a U.S. territory since 1898 – became the 50th state on this date, following a referendum in Hawaii in which more than 93% of the voters approved the proposition that the territory should be admitted as a state. There were many Hawaiian petitions for statehood during the first half of the 20th century.

1969 – The Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station releases four new tropical, vegetable-type, large-seeded soybeans it has developed for use as edamame. They are Mokapu Summer, Kahala, Kaikoo, and Kailua (Hawaii Agric. Exp. Station, Research Report. No. 178. Feb.).

1975 – The NifTAL Project is established in Hawaii on the island of Maui to do research into nitrogen fixing plants that might benefit tropical areas.

1980 Jan. – According to the 1980 census, the groups that live in Hawaii are: White 33%, Japanese 25%, Filipino 14%, Hawaiian 12%, Chinese 6%, Other 10% (USA Today, 1990 Feb. 2, p. 3A).

1984 Aug. 1 – Mr. Mao Chi Tzeng buys Mrs. Cheng’s Soybean Products. He runs it as a dba of Toyohara Soybean Product, Inc.

Present Status: The three largest Hawaiian tofu makers on Oahu (all in Honolulu, in descending order of annual sales) are: Aloha Tofu, Mrs. Cheng’s Soybean Products, and Aala Tofu. There are also 3 tofu shops on the big Island of Hawaii and one on Maui. However an estimated 70-80% of the tofu market in Hawaii is owned by imported tofu brands (such as House Foods in Los Angeles).

Almost all of the soybeans used in Hawaii are imported from the USA.

There are no plant breeders (including no soybean breeders) in the Hawaiian Islands.

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Soybeans and Soyfoods in Hawaii (1847-2021)