Kuwata Soy Sauce Brewery (Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture)
When doing business, it is common to expand your operations in order to increase sales. However, Hiroshi Kuwata?san, owner of Kuwata Brewery, thinks differently: “Our marketing area is Hofu City. When we ship our soy sauce out to Ube, a city in the same prefecture, it feels like I’m exporting it to another country!” jokes Kuwata?san.
Kuwata?san and his wife. “I want to keep on making soy sauce honestly and truthfully. I want to make soy sauce that is loved locally,” said Kuwata?san.
In the soy sauce industry where production volume and sales are gradually decreasing, I find Kuwata?san’s words to be quite strange. Wouldn’t he want to expand to stay afloat? But then again, Kuwata?san’s background is rather unique, which may give him the advantage to stay open.
Before working in the soy sauce industry, Kuwata?san worked at Recruit Co. Ltd., a classified advertisement, publication and human resources company. Many Japanese people are familiar with “Jalan,” a magazine on traveling advice; “Zexi,” a magazine on marriage in Japan and China; and “SUUMO,” a free magazine on housing. However, after working in human resources at Recruit, Kuwata?san returned to his hometown.
A sweet type of soy sauce, brewed in kioke (large wooden barrels), is common in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Kuwata?san uses soybeans produced in this prefecture.
I asked Kuwata?san, “Were you planning on returning home to take over the brewery?” To which he replied, “Absolutely not!”
“Actually, I was planning on setting up an IT venture. But there was something I noticed when I was meeting with a prospective investor. I realized that some human relationships are connected through money,” said Kuwata?san.
“I had this idea about relationships when I went back to my parents’ house. They were so busy with the brewery that they asked me to help them out. One of the things I had to do
was deliver one bottle of soy sauce to the elderly up in the mountains. I had to travel 40 minutes one?way just for a bottle of \100 soy sauce. This puts the brewery at a severe deficit. However, there are a lot of elderly people who say with a big smile, ‘If it’s not Kuwata Soy Sauce, then it’s not worth it!’ At that time, I realized that working shouldn’t focus on increasing profits,” said Kuwata?san.
Since Kuwata?san returned to his parents’ house, the situation was far from mundane. From the days when he was in a business suit, to the days working in rubber boots, Kuwata?san had to work harder than he imagined?and financing was not easy. However, after years of gritting his teeth, he managed to escape the chronic deficits the brewery was facing.
After that strenuous time, Kuwata?san started to work with whole soybeans from Yamaguchi Prefecture.
Sweet soy sauce is commonly used in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and it’s typically made with non?fat processed soybeans, amino acids and sweetener. Naturally, there was not a brewery in the whole prefecture that used whole soybeans or wheat for sweet soy sauce.
Dark soy sauce can be divided into three types: pure brew, mixed, and mixed brew. The differences among these brews depend on whether amino acid solution is added, or when it was added in the process. Kuwata Soy Sauce produces all three kinds.
Therefore, Kuwata?san wanted to make soy sauce unique in Yamaguchi Prefecture. By using local whole soybeans and wheat, brewed in 100 year?old traditional kioke barrels, Kuwata?san wanted to make soy sauce that had the taste of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s four seasons.
Kuwata?san (right) and with Yamamoto?san (left) of Yamaroku Soy Sauce.
Just by seeing this antiquated brick machinery, you can’t help but feel the history emanating from it. This machine specializes in roasting wheat.
Clearly, making soy sauce isn’t as easy as buying whole soybeans and putting them inside the kioke barrels. Improvements must be made on the methods of brewing, as well as the machines. However the biggest challenge was knowing how to brew with whole soybeans. There wasn’t any “how to” books on this method of brewing.
Fortunately, after searching for quite some time, Kuwata?san finally found a skilled brewer from Oka Naosaburo Brewery in Gunma Prefecture that he could rely on. The father of this brewer endured tremendous amount of trial and error until he successfully brewed soy sauce using whole soybeans, which he then passed on to his son. Taking this knowledge, Kuwata?san was finally able to produce sweet soy sauce with whole soybeans, locally produced for local consumption.
Sweet soy sauce contains additives, so it often gains a bad rep for being unhealthy. Despite the criticism, Kuwata?san strongly states, “I want to be proud of the sweet soy sauce I make.”
Non?additive soy sauce versus additive soy sauce, expensive soy sauce versus cheap soy sauce, they each have their own advantages and disadvantages. However the reality is that many products do not convey factual information for the customers to see.
Kuwata Soy Sauce brews both the normal type (soybean, wheat, salt) and the sweet type (additive). With these soy sauces, Kuwata?san brews them through the three different methods: the pure brew method, mixed method, and mixed brew method. Kuwata?san says, “I want to be an upright and honest soy sauce shop for our consumers. No matter who comes to visit our brewery, I want to make soy sauce that makes you say to your guests, ‘Please take some more soy sauce’!”
In addition to local restaurants, Kuwata Brewery also transports their soy sauce to primary schools and hospitals.
More than half of this ponzu sauce is made with orange juice. However, the fresh orange juice taste and aroma is lost when mixing with soy sauce. Therefore, the orange juice is blended with plenty of kelp and bonito dashi (soup stock) in order to maintain its rich flavor.
Price: \476 + tax ／ Ingredients: orange juice, soy sauce (pure brew), bonito dashi, kelp extract, seasoning (amino acid), caramel food coloring, sweetener (stevia, licorice), alcohol, soybeans, wheat商品の購入
Kuwata Soy Sauce Brewery’s motto is to make honest soy sauce. Brewed for a year and a half, this soy sauce was made with locally produced wheat in kioke barrels. This soy sauce has become a standard product in most local grocery stores.
Price: \362 + tax／ Ingredients: amino acid liquid, salt (domestically?produced), non?fat soybeans, wheat (produced in Yamaguchi Prefecture), sugar, caramel food coloring, seasoning (amino acid), sweetener (stevia, licorice), preservative (para?hydroxybenzonate), thiamin (vitamin B1)商品の購入
8?11 Matsusaki?cho, Hofu, Yamaguchi Prefecture 〒747-0029