Photo By: Amrita Singh
Region
Kansai
Island
Honshu
Largest City
Wakayama
Population
1,069,839

Yuasa

A rustic Edo Era industrial town, where the thick, sweet smell of soy sauce wafts through timeworn wooden warehouses and stores, a constant reminder that this is the birthplace of soy sauce.

Visit Yuasa in Wakayama Prefecture to taste soy sauce with a depth of flavor you’ve never before encountered.

There’s a raw and rustic charm in the sleepy little town of Yuasa that feels very precious. It’s in the dusty diminutive buildings that seem to have slipped straight though the archives of a history book. It’s in the people, who sit calm in open doorways having unhurried conversations with passersby. It’s in the atmosphere, with unmanned bundles of fruit lying for sale on street corners, with the trusted surety that sales will be collected in “honesty boxes” lying near the fruit. And, most importantly for all epicureans out there, it’s in the ancient traditional method of making the most artisanal soy sauce your palate will ever encounter.

Photo by: Amrita Singh Yuasa Soy Sauce Factory.

Chance creation

It’s funny that one of the most integral ingredients of Japanese cuisine, the virtual backbone of this amazing odyssey of gastronomy that we call Japanese cuisine, had such an incidental invention.

Mount Koya

It all began in 1254, when Buddhist priest Kokushin, settled in Yuasa after his lengthy travels to Sung in ancient China. Along with imparting spiritual knowledge, Kokushin started recreating miso-making methods that he had learnt while on his travels. This miso was prepared by brewing soybeans, wheat, salt, koji (a fermentation starter) and lots of summer produce such as eggplant, melon, red shiso (perilla leaves) and ginger. This miso, called Kinzanji Miso, required lengthy months of fermentation, and it was during this process that workers noticed a dark mahogany liquid collecting in the brewing vats. The monks and workers soon discovered that this tamari (literally “accumulation” in Japanese) was a delicious condiment in its own right. And so the journey of soy sauce began.

Photo by: Amrita Singh Inside the Yuasa Factory shop.

Traditional techniques

Original methods of production, first established 750 years ago, are still vigilantly adhered. In Yuasa, soy sauce undergoes a patient one to two years of fermentation, the ingredients are carefully sourced from within Japan and artificial preservatives are strictly avoided. As fate would have it, the waters of Yuasa have a mineral content ideally suited for the creation of a superior product. Cedar barrels used for fermentation are another key factor.

A visit to Yuasa Soy Sauce Company, one of the largest remaining producers in the city, is highly recommended. Visitors can tour the factory and see these massive 6-ton barrels, some 130 years in age, still used in production. After the tour, sign up for a unique souvenir: make your very own bottle of soy sauce to take home. A true test in patience, you have to mature your concoction for a year to taste the final product.

Photo by: Amrita Singh Yuasa Soy Sauce Company.

Ancient industrial town

In the “Preservation District of Traditional Buildings” or judenken, a small area of conserved wooden buildings that were once part of a thriving industrial town, you get a feel of the simple hard-working lives of workers in the Edo period. Once bustling with traders and workers, the area housed 92 soy sauce breweries at its prime.

Photo by: Amrita Singh Yuasa Old Warehouse with soy sauce barrels outside it.

Only four of these breweries now remain. The history of this old townscape of low wooden structures built with latticework and tiled roofs, is poignantly enhanced with small displays of personal objects used by its Edo era residents. Some of these ‘Street Museum’ exhibits, displayed in seiro or bamboo trays used for soybean fermentation, hold rusted timepieces, carved hip flasks and metal framed spectacles once held precious by people who lived there.

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Trivia

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Things To Know

Details

Yuasa Soy Sauce Company: 1466-1, Arida-gun, Wakayama 643-0004. Ph: 81-737632267. | Yuasa Information Center: 1077-6 Yuasa, Yuasa-cho; +81 0737 63 4123 (closed Dec. 29 ~ Jan. 3)

How To Get There

Address

Japan, 〒643-0004 Wakayama-ken, Arida-gun, Yuasa-chō, Yuasa, 1055-9, 自転車預り所坂田

By train

From Shin Osaka Tennoji: 90 minutes by JR Kinokuni Line / Kuroshio Express. From Osaka Kansai Airport: about 80 minutes. From Wakayama City Station: 40 minutes by JR line. Note: Yuasa’s main pedestrian zone is about a 15-minute walk from Yuasa JR station or 5 minutes by bike.

Where To Stay

  • 〒643-0004 WakayamaArida-Gun Yuasa-Cho
  • 0.4 km
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SenzanAn Kitamachi
  • Yuasa 21-1 Arida-Gun Yuasa-Cho, Wakayama 643-0004
  • 8/10
  • 0.8 km
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Yuasajyo
  • Yuasa-cho Aoki 75 Arida-Gun Yuasa-Cho, Wakayama 643-0002
  • 7/10
  • 1.4 km
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Suhara Seaside House
  • Suhara 970-1 Arida-Gun Yuasa-Cho, Wakayama 643-0005
  • 2.9/10
  • 2.0 km
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