There are VERY important Soy sauce brewer in Shodoshima/Kagawa. It’s Yamaroku soy sauce. I visited their descendant in the fifth generation, Mr. Yamamoto.
Soy sauce island – Shodoshima
Shodoshima is a island in Seto inland sea, where is famous for making soy sauce.
What is great about Shodoshima’s soy sauce is they are made by traditional method, and more importantly, they are mostly made in wooden barrels. Apparently, ONLY 1 % of all Japan made soy sauce is brewed in wooden barrel. Only 1 %!! I believe soy sauce made in wooden barrel by traditional method is the real soy sauce, but these soy sauce is so precious nowadays. But still, there are some artisan who puts effort to make real soy sauce. In Shodoshima, you can find these people. 1/3 of the 1% of Japanese wooden barrel made soy sauce is from Shodoshima!!
In Yamaroku soy sauce, visiter can enter the special room, which is registered tangible cultural property. This is the room to ferment the base of soy sauce. The liquid before squeezing called Moromi, so accurately, it is “Moromi room”.
There are not many soy sauce brewers allow us to be in the Moromi room. However, here in Yamakuro, kindly, they let us in! Very lucky to see, hear and smell them directly. So precious moment!! In Yamaroku, there are 60 wooden barrels and wall of this Moromi room is old mud wall. This is the treasure of Yamaroku, bacteria live in these places, and works for soy sauce. This is the secret of making yummy soy sauce.
Can you see the stick? (bit dark!) The Soy sauce master stands on this floor, and mix soy sauce with this long stick.
This barrel is 150 years old. Over these periods, lots of different kinds of bacteria has been lived in the barrel, and helped to make unique soy sauce. (According to Yamakuro, more than 100 different type of bacteria!! That’s just amazing!!)
This is sort of squeezing soy sauce machine, but actually they don’t squeeze. They just let soy sauce to come out from the bag, just using gravity to make clear taste soy sauce.
The Mr. Yamamoto has a strong determination which I really respect (and almost made me cry!). Wooden barres last about 200 years. In Yamaroku, most of wooden barrels are 100-150 years old. That means, they can keep making real soy sauce for next 50 years, but not anymore – not to the his grandkid generation. He felt a sense of crisis. He thought this was the real problem. His determination is to remain REAL soy sauce made with cedar wooden barrel to his kids & grandkids generation, and so he decided to to become an artisan to make wooden barrels as well as being real soy sauce brewer. He thought it might be reckless, but nothing can be achieved without trying. Then he launched the project called “Revive wooden barrel artisan project” since 2012.
Japan is facing serious situation. In spite of wooden barrels are the best and perfect fermentation container as bacteria can live in the wood, obviously we are loosing this wonderful proper fermentation culture as you can understand that only 1% of Japanese soy sauce production is made with wooden barrel. It resulted into the situation that only one company remains in Japan who can make big wooden barrels! And sadly, this company will close their business in 3 years. If we don’t learn from him now, we have absolutely nobody who can make these beautiful and important tools anymore, which means no chance to order big wooden barrels anywhere in the Japan, probably in the world. That is the reason which made Mr. Yamamoto moves urgently. He thought ” I have to try this NOW”.
Check his project in this video!
He started a new career as a wooden barrel artisan, and Mr. Yamamoto and his project keep making 3 – 4 barrels every year since then. Some barrels stayed in Yamaroku, some delivered to other soy sauce brewers. (One is in Milan, Italy!!) I really appreciate his decision and effort. There are more important thing than efficiency. I don’t think it is too much to say that he saved Japanese fermentation culture. Hope more brewers use wooden barrel to make real soy sauce!
If you ever come to Seto inland sea, (I know many people visit Naoshima or Setouchi Triennale), I recommend to visit this Yamaroku Soy sauce brewer in Shodoshima! Check their Moromi room and taste these yummy ice cream and pudding with soy sauce!! (Amazingly, It really works)
Of course, you can purchase their real soy sauce! Two types.
Best wishes to brave Mr. Yamamoto and Yamaroku soy sauce brewer.