Craft Soy sauce - Taste the traditional flavour of Japan –
All over the world the most popular Japanese seasoning is soy sauce.
When you think of soy sauce, perhaps the most common thing you think of is sushi or Japanese cuisine.
But it can actually be used in a variety of ways such as in barbecue sauce, marinade, or pasta sauce.
Of course, it’s perfect for ramen noodles as well! This time let’s take a trip just outside of Tokyo to visit some factories and learn more about the production of soy sauce.
In the area of Kawagoe, Saitama Prefecture (just north of Tokyo) the production of soy sauce began approximately 200 years ago.
At that time this area began to develop as a means to support the eating habits of the growing population of Edo (present day Tokyo).
In Saitama, they have been producing soy sauce using locally sourced materials and are particular about the natural fermentation process in large wooden barrels (Kioke).
Soy sauce is a fermented food just like wine and cheese and because of the fermentation process the flavour will change based on the producer and the area of production.
This time we’ll be visiting some soy sauce manufacturers who have a long history. Why don’t you come along and experience a bit of traditional Japanese culture?
If you actually try the soy sauce from different manufacturers or ones that were produced in different storerooms you might begin to be able to tell the difference in flavour.
You might even find it quite exciting to try the food and sweets produced using soy sauce from different storerooms.
■Kinbue Syoyu Park (Kawajima-machi)
Kinbue was established over 230 years ago.At Kinbue Syoyu Park, you can take a guided tour of the factory and learn exactly how soy sauce is produced using traditional methods.
Their tours have become so popular they even created a textbook as ”Kinbue Syoyu School” to give participants so they can better understand the process.
Along the tour you’ll be taken into different buildings and shown where everything happens.
First take a look at all the bags full of soy beans grown locally in Saitama Prefecture. The soy beans are soaked in water and then heated.
Next grains of wheat are heated and crushed.The treated soy beans and grains of wheat are mixed together with a special type of bacteria called Koji.
The mixture is allowed to set for a few days then mixed with salt water to produce unrefined soy sauce.
Next the unrefined soy sauce is poured into large wooden barrels called Kioke where it will be allowed to ferment for at least one year.
On the tour you’ll be able to see the different stages of development required to make soy sauce.
You’ll get to visit a room filled with Kioke containing soy sauce at different stages of fermentation. It’s interesting to see the barrels from above and see how everything is mixed by hand so make sure to take the opportunity.
The next step is to wrap the unrefined soy sauce in a flat cloth and stack them on top of each other so the pressure squeezes out all the liquid.
If you’re interested in learning more about the different types of soy sauce produced or want to see each step in more detail be sure to join the free tour and ask your guide any questions you might have.
Once you’re finished with the tour take a relaxing break in the restaurant and grab a bite to eat. They offer meals such as udon noodles served with soy sauce produced on site and Kioke baum (German split cake), baked across from the restaurant, topped with ice cream and a sweet soy sauce drizzled on top.
If the weather’s nice you should wander around one of the open areas inside the park and take some photos with genuine Kioke (you can even pose inside to get a sense of the sheer size).
Don’t forget to stop by the shop before leaving to pick up some unique and popular flavours of soy sauce such as their original kioke first batch soy sauce (hatsushibori), double fermented soy sauce (saishikomi), sweet dessert soy sauce, and powder soy sauce, as well as kioke baum (available in soy sauce, plain, or strawberry flavour).
<Kinbue Syoyu Park>
Address: Kamiigusa 660, Kawajima-machi, Hiki-gun, Saitama Prefecture
Tour Dates: Daily (Open all year. Tours may be unavailable during the New Year holiday and during operational maintenance.)
Tour Duration: 20 minutes
Tour Times: Weekdays: 10:30am (excluding Mondays), 12:30, 1:30pm
* Weekends and Holidays: from 10:30am – 3:30pm (every half hour)
Admission Fee: Free
Tour Reservation: Please click on the following link or send an e-mail.
Access: Take the Tobu Tojo Line or JR Line to Kawagoe Station or the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Hon Kawagoe Station and take the Tobu bus heading to Higashi Matsuyama Hachiman Danchi or the bus heading to Kounosu Menkyo Centre and get off at the Igusa Shogakko Mae stop and walk 5 mins.
Video(Long Ver.)：“Join Us on a Saitama Soy Sauce Brewery Tour!”
■Matsumoto Craft Soy Sauce (Kawagoe City)
Matsumoto Craft Soy Sauce was established in 1764 and has continued making soy sauce following traditional methods since then.
Large wooden barrels called Sugioke are used to store unrefined soy sauce during the fermentation period.
Along the tour you’ll see the process from start to finish in a warehouse that makes you feel the flavours of the past come to life.
You can even try your hand at mixing a small barrel of unrefined soy sauce.
After your tour finishes be sure to take a look round the shop and pick up a souvenir bottle or two to take back to your friends and family.
They have a variety of gift sets perfect for anyone who enjoys the taste of Japanese food.
Try a bowl of ramen noodles at Underground Ramen (restaurant next to the shop) made with soy sauce produced on site. If you’re a fan of ramen or wanting to try it for the first time you can’t miss this chance.
<Matsumoto Craft Soy Sauce>
Address: Nakacho 10-13, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture
Tour Times: Weekdays at 1pm, Weekends and Holidays at 1pm, 2pm, and 3pm (excluding the New Year holiday)
Tour Duration: approximately 20 minutes
Admission Fee: Free
Hours of Operation: Shop hours 9am-6pm (open daily), Underground Ramen 11am-3pm, 5:30pm-9pm (closed Wednesdays)
Tour Reservation: Not required. Please wait at the shop entrance 10 mins prior to the tour starting time.
*Please note that we may not be able to offers tours due to factory operations. (If you would like to arrange a group tour please contact us beforehand.)
Access: Take the Tobu Tojo Line to Kawagoeshi Station or the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Hon Kawagoe Station and walk 15 mins.
■Yugeta Shoyu Co., Ltd. (Hidaka City / Kawagoe City)
At Yugeta Shoyu you can find a large selection of soy sauce including the International Taste and Quality Institute 2021 award winning Yuki Shoyu and 2020 award winning Yuzu Shoyu.
You can sample a range of different types of soy sauce to find your favourite.
If you’re interested in having a tour of the factory be sure to head over to Hidaka city where you can see the various steps and equipment needed to prepare savoury soy sauce.
During our trip this time we decided to visit the shop in Kawagoe which is just down the road from the historic bell tower ‘Toki no Kane’ (a great spot for pictures of traditional Japanese style architecture).
There is even a wooden barrel filled with unrefined soy sauce inside the shop that you can try your might to squeeze out as much soy sauce as possible. (You can also buy a bottle of soy sauce you squeezed yourself.)
In the shop you can find interesting souvenirs such as soy sauce flavoured ice cream and sweets. They also serve delicious dango (small round dumplings made of pounded rice served on a skewer) dipped in soy sauce then lightly grilled.
<Yugeta Shoyu Co., Ltd. Hidaka factory>
Address: Tabame 804-1, Hidaka City, Saitama Prefecture
Tour Dates: Daily (Tours may be unavailable during the New Year holiday and other occasions.)
Tour Duration: 20-30 minutes
Tour Times: Weekdays: 11am, 1pm, 2:30pm, Weekends and Holidays: 10:30am, 11:30am, 1pm, 2pm, 3pm
Admission Fee: Free
Tour Reservation: Not required (If you would like to arrange a group tour please contact us beforehand.)
Access: Take the Tobu-Ogose line to Nishi-oya Station and walk 20 mins or walk 40 mins from JR Komagawa Station.
<Yugeta Shoyu Co., Ltd. / Kawagoe shop >
Address: Otemachi 14-5, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture
Hours of Operation: 10am-5pm (closed Tuesdays)
Access: Take the Tobu-Tojo line to Kawagoe Station and walk 25 mins, or take the Seibu-Shinjuku line to Hon-Kawagoe Station and walk 25 mins.
■Yamaki Jozo Group (Kamikawa-machi)
Yamaki Jozo is located in an area surrounded by nature and has a history of over 100 years as a place where various food products such as soy sauce, miso, pickled vegetables, tofu, and soy milk are made.
If you’ve ever wanted to experience something truly unique to food culture in Japan you should try your hand at making soy sauce, miso, and tofu in the countryside just outside of Tokyo.
You can also take a tour of the factory to see how everything is prepared to create delicious traditional cuisine.
<Yamaki Jozo Group>
Address: Shimoaguhara 955, Kamikawa-machi, Kodama-gun, Saitama Prefecture
Admission Fee: Free
*Please click the link below for more information regarding tour dates, times, and reservations.
Access: Take JR Takasaki Line to Honjo Station and follow the South exit then take the Asahi bus for 40 mins or take JR Hachiko Line to Tanso Station and take the bus for 20 mins to the last stop ‘Kamikawa-machi Kamiizumi Sougoshisho’ and walk 2 mins.
How did you find your experience learning about the culture of soy sauce that has long continued in Saitama Prefecture?
Each place you visit boasts exclusive products made with the utmost care using traditional methods which have been passed down from generation to generation.
At every stop you can find the perfect souvenirs to remember your trip through Japan and to share with your loved ones.
Just a few steps outside of Tokyo you’ll be able to feel the spirit of Japan through unique experiences that will remain with you for a lifetime.