Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Museum

"500 B.C. - 
Soy sauce was discovered in China."

The long history
of soy sauce


Tokyo Sky Tree was spotted from multiple angles across Edogawa River.

The first tour for the Chiba Kun Ambassadors this year took us to a couple of cities situated in the northern region of Chiba Prefecture - Noda City (野田市) and Matsudo City (松戸市). The geografical features of Noda, neighboured by Saitama Prefecture and Ibaraki Prefecture, makes it a regional commercial center. Noda City is easily accessible from Tokyo Station, in which the train ride takes approximately an hour.

Noda City was historically famous for the production of edamame (green soy beans) and the city was known until 2002 as Japan's prime producer of edamame. Today, it may be in third place behind Tsuruoka in Yamagata Prefecture and Niigata City, but edamame production is still a local pride.


Chiba Kun Ambassadors in the bus, eagerly anticipating the first tour of the year!

The locals are so obsessed with edamame that they have edamame party every summer after the harvest. During this festival, everyone enjoys the Edamame Samba - a Noda City original with a jaunty tune to accompany the edamame taiso (edamame exercise). Edamame taiso is a kind of exercise based on the movements involved in soybean farming. It includes poses mimicking harvesting and swinging into a basket bunches of soybeans - and then wiping your sweat away.

However, there is something more prominent than edamame in Noda City. But no, not the former Japanese Prime Minister, Mr Noda. It's Kikkoman. So, what is Kikkoman you may ask.


  The first stop of the day - Kikkoman Monoshiri Shoyukan.


Kikkoman's promise to the world.

Kikkoman is a soy sauce brand, and along with Yamasa from Chosi City (also in Chiba Prefecture), they contribute to more than one-third of the overall production of soy sauce in Japan. Discovered in China more than 2,500 years ago, sou sauce is thought to be one of the world's oldest condiments. It has remained a cornerstone of many Asian cuisines. Today, it is increasing known in the West as a flavouring and flavour-enhancing ingredient for many types of foods.

In Japan, soy sauce is considered the most important condiment and is used to flavour all types of Japanese dishes. Made of fermented, roasted soy beans, there are countless varities and regional soy sauces that vary in flavour and colour. The typucal types of soy sauces are all purpose soy sauce, sashimi soy sauce with a lighter flavour and colour so as not to overpower the subtle flavours of sashimi, and low sodium soy sauce for those who are conscious on their health.


We were guided into a small hall and shown a short 10-minute video about the history and production of soy sauce.


Later, we were taken to go around the factory by the guide, which lasted about 20 minutes.


And so, the ambassadors began their job like professional reporters lol! (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa)


Having said that, we also listen attentively to the explanations by our guide. (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa) 

Our first stop was Kikkoman Soy Sauce Museum in Noda City. Here, there is a wide range of information about naturally brewed Kikkoman soy sauce, including the history of soy sauce, details about its production process and features of soy sauce, together with recommended recipes. The tour is conducted six times daily - 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00 and 15:00.

The moment we stepped down from the bus, I could sensed the distinctive delicious smell of soy sauce. Not only we received a warm welcome by the lovely manager and staff, our arrival to the factory was also greeted by the staff from Chiba TV. Exactly, our trip was gonna be covered in the news later that evening.


Here is the recipe to make a litre of soy sauce - 180 grams of soy bean, 180 grams of wheat, 165 grams of salt.
Technically, you can get a bottle of one-litre soy sauce by mixing two pieces of tofu, 0.8 loaf of bread and salt obtained from 5 litres of seawater. 


Since its foundation, Kikkoman has been using its original Kikkoman Aspergillus, a type of fungus, to propagate koji mold.


Old wooden boxes used for culturing koji. Koji mold is one of the most important elements in making soy sauce,
and plays an essential role in fermenting the ingredients: this activity is the key to the taste of soy sauce.


Early phase of moromi. Moromi is aged for several months. Various actions take place in the tank, including lactic acid fermentation, alcoholic fermentation
and organic acid fermentation, all of which impart to the moromi the rich flavor, aroma and color that are unique to soy sauce.


Sniffing on the one-month-old moromi. Smelled like miso lol! (photo credit: Ayako Uchiyama)  


The mixing process starts from here: the shoyu koji is moved to a tank and mixed with the salt-and-water solution. This mixture is called moromi, a kind of mash, which is then fermented and aged in the tank. Each tank hols 500 tons of the mixture!

To prepare for winter, people of prehistoric Asia preserved meat and fish by packing them in salt. The liquid that leached from the preserved meat was subsequently used as a base for savory broths and seasonings.  In the sixth century AD, the practice of Buddhism flourished in both Japan and China. Many Buddhists practiced vegetarianism, which created the need for a meatless seasoning. One such seasoning consisted of a salty paste of fermented grains including soybeans, the first known product to resemble modern soy sauce.

While studying in China, a Japanese Zen priest came across this new seasoning. Upon returning to Japan, the priest began making his own version and introduced it to others. Over the years, the Japanese modified the ingredients and brewing techniques. One change was the addition of wheat in equal proportion to the soybeans. This produced a soy sauce with a more balanced flavor profile that enhanced food flavors without overpowering them.


Soy sauce is pressed from aged moromi. During pressing, moromi is poured into special equipment
wherein the mash is strained through layers of incredibly long (2.4 km!) fabric, with each layer folded into three sub-layers.


After allowing the soy sauce to flow out of the moromi under the force of gravity, the moromi is then mechanically pressed slowly
and steadily for about ten hours. It takes a considerable period of time to gradually press the mash in order to produce beautifully clear soy sauce.


The result from the pressing process - soy sauce (left) and the leftover (right), which is usually cut and used to feed cows.


Interesting stuff found at one corner of the museum, which depicts the soy sauce production in the olden days.


The line-ups of Kikkoman. Kikkoman Soy Sauce is produced from carefully selected ingredients:
its fine aroma is composed of roughly 300 different components, while its well-balanced mix of the five basic flavors satisfies the palate.


Kikkoman products from Singapore plant. They even produce chilly, ginger, lemon grass marinate soy sauce to suit the local taste-bud..


Kikkoman users around the world know that this seasoning enhances not only Asian cuisines, but Western dishes as well,
as it is requested in more than 100 countries.

During the hundred years from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century, soy sauce production led by the Mogi and Takanashi families prospered in the city of Noda, located in Chiba Prefecture. This is where Kikkoman was born.  Noda is located on the Kanto plain, once one of the largest production centers for soybeans and wheat. It was easy to secure the necessary workforce in this region, owing to its growing population following on the establishment of nearby Edo (today's Tokyo) as the capital of Japan.

Besides its geographic advantages, boat transport had developed in Noda, which was blessed with two major waterways: the Tone and Edo rivers. The transportation of ingredients was thus facilitated, while manufactured products could be delivered to Edo for mass consumption.  Based on historical documents, nineteen soy sauce brewers organized an association in Noda to ship soy sauce mainly to Edo.


Building which are related to soy sauce production, build 80 to 100 years ago, are designated as Heritage of Industrial Modernization (近代産業遺産).


One of them are located just next to the Kikkoman factory.


Here, the equipments used in the olden days are exhibited, as our guide explained to us how each component works.


These equipments are used to process the raw materials of soy sauce, which are soybeans, wheat and salt.


The image of workers working there is super-imposed onto the live feed to give visitors a clearer understanding of the process.


The vats used to ferment soy sauce consist of Japanese cedar boards held together with bamboo hoops. Soy sauce continues to be fermented using these vats, and microorganisms such as yeast and Lactobacillus, which thrive on the surface of the wood play vital role in the production of good quality soy sauce.


This is the fermentation room, where vats are half filled with salt water, then topped up with shoyu koji and mixed. This mixture is called moromi.
Fermentation continues naturally after that.


The mixture is stirred about once a month in a procedure called kai-ire ("paddle stirring") to supply oxygen and homogenize the moromi,
 then taken out of the vat once it has matured. (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa) 


An example of how the wooden boxes used for culturing koji are stacked in a room.


After the moromi has matured, it is wrapped in fabric and pilled up, then pressed in a machine, commonly called a mizu bune. It is pressed slowly over several days. The pressed soy sauce flows into a container called a kame guchi.


The pressed soy sauce is transferred to tubs where oil is separated out. Next, the soy sauce is heated and pasteurized in a cauldron, then left for several days inside a vat under the cauldron. The layer of clear soy sauce in the middle of the cauldron is what is bottled as the finished product.


A group photo with the boss of Kikkoman and our boss - Tooru Ishikawa-san, the Director General of International Affairs Division,
Policy and Planning Department of Chiba Prefectural Government. (photo credit: Ayako Uchiyama)  


Kak Ros and I, the representatives from Malaysia posing with a huge soy sauce bottle. We wondered how long one will take to finish
this giant bottle of soy sauce lol!

By the mid-nineteenth century, Noda had become the largest soy sauce producer in the Kanto region.  In 1917, the Mogi family, the Takanashi family and the Horikiri family merged their businesses to form Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd. In 1964, Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd. changed its corporate name to Kikkoman Shoyu Co., Ltd. In 1980, this trade name was altered to the company’s current name: Kikkoman Corporation.

Today, Kikkoman Soy Sauce is the best-selling and most widely recognized brand name of soy sauce in the United States and other parts of the world, prized for its versatility as a flavor enhancer, sauce and marinade base, and table-top condiment.


Waku Waku Shoyu Taiken Mame Cafe.

The ticket vending machine to get our food ticket.


This is how the interior of the cafe looks like.


The soy sauce soft cream here tasted slightly saltier than the one we tried in Choshi last year.


Visitors get to compare the taste of three types of soy sauce on the tofu, which is provided for free. (photo credit: Ayako Uchiyama) 


The Chiba Kun Ambassadors feeding one of the guides with soy sauce ice cream. See how happy he looks like. (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa) 


A group photo in front of the souvenir shop with the Kikkoman's boss. (photo credit: Tooru Ishikawa) 

Before going back, we dropped by the souvenir shop - Murasakiya (むらさき屋) and also the cafeteria - "Mame Cafe" (まめカフェ) to try its popular soy sauce soft cream. Apparently, soft cream of soy sauce flavour is only available here. Besides that, they also have raw soy sauce (nama-shoyu) udon and soy sauce rice crackers (senbei) as well.

Another good thing not to be missed (however, I somehow missed it) is that there is a corner where you get to try on three different types of soy sauce on the tofu, which is free! One thing to take note is that this shop closes at 15:30, so to those who are joining the 15:00 factory tour, it is recommended that you arrive earlier to try on the soft cream first before the tour begins.


After the tour around the factory, each of us were given a mini bottle of soy sauce and furikake as souvenirs.

Kikkoman Soy Sauce Museum (Mono-shiri Shoyu-kan)
Visitors are requested to make reservation through phone calls beforehand.
Opening hours: 9:00 - 16:00
Closed days: 4th Monday every month, Golden Week (May 3 - 6), Jul 6 - 7, Obon (Aug 12 - 16), Year-End-New-Year (Dec 26 - Jan 6)
Factory tour hours: 9:00, 10:00, 11:00, 13:00, 14:00, 15:00
Factory tour duration: Approximately 60 minutes (video presentation: 15 minutes, soy sauce production tour: 45 minutes), with guide books in English, Korean, and Mandarin.
Minimum number of person: 2 persons
Entrance fee: Free
Notes:* Two wheelchairs are available. Please make a request during reservation if needed.
* There are days (Sat, Sun, national holidays) where the production line does not run.
* Do not smoke, eat, drink or take photograph in undesignated area.
* Not pets are allowed into the factory & museum.
* Please use public transportation due to the limited parking spaces.

Kikkoman Shokuhin Noda Kojonai, 110 Noda, Noda-shi, Chiba Prefecture, 278-0037, Japan.

04-7123-5136 (9:00 - 16:00, except closing days)
Website: (English) & (Japanese only)

* Car: J
ōban Expressway (常磐自動車道) → Nagareyama IC (流山): 20 minutes.
* Train: Nodashi station (野田市) on Tōbu Noda Line: 3 minutes by foot to the factory.

Mame Cafe & Murasakiya
Opening days:
Same as opening days of Mono-shiri Shoyu-kan (please call directly for more details)
Opening hours: 9:30 - 16:00
Tel: 04-7123-5136
* Soy sauce soft cream: 250 yen (half for 150 yen)
* Soy bean soy sauce soft cream: 250 yen (half for 150 yen)
* Special momomi pork soup: 150 yen
* Raw soy sauce udon:150 yen
* Rice crackers (3 pieces) baking session: 210 yen
* Soy sauce flavour testing (comes with tofu): Free


TZ said...

Interesting to know that the soy sauce also have museum... :)

calvin said...

@ TZ:
Yup, you can find all sorts of museum here in Japan.

Others include Yokohama's ramen museum, parasite museum in Meguro and sex robot museum in ermm, I'll have you find it out yourself lol!

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