“I want to be an honest soy sauce shop”

When doing business, it is common to expand your operations in order to increase sales. However, Hiroshi Kuwata, owner of Kuwata Brewery, thinks differently: “Our marketing area is Hofu City. Even 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.

桑田夫妻。リクルート出身の珍しい経歴と「うちの商圏は防府市」宣言。地元に愛される正直な醤油を造り続けたいと、並々ならぬ情熱を注いでいます。/Kuwata and his wife. Kuwata emphasizes his unique business background and the importance of his hometown region. Enthusiastically, he pronounces that he wants to continue to make honest soy sauce that is loved by locals.



In the soy sauce industry where production volume and sales are gradually decreasing, I find Kuwata’s words to be quite strange. Wouldn’t he want to expand to stay afloat? But then again, Kuwata’s background is rather unique, which may give him the competitive advantage to stay open.

Before working in the soy sauce industry, Kuwata 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 returned to his hometown.

山口県防府市(ほうふし)。甘いタイプの醤油が一般的な山口県にて、伝統的な木桶での熟成。山口県産の丸大豆での仕込みもしています。/A sweet type of soy sauce, brewed in kioke (large wooden barrels), is common in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Kuwata uses soybeans produced in this prefecture.




What is it that connects us?

I asked Kuwata, “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, in this business, human relationships are connected through money,” said Kuwata.


“I had this idea in mind 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.





From business suit to boots

Since Kuwata returned to his parents’ house, the situation was far from easy. Transitioning from the days when he was in a business suit, to the days working in rubber boots, Kuwata 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 started to work with whole soybeans from Yamaguchi Prefecture.

Sweet soy sauce is commonly used in Yamaguchi Prefecture, and it’s typically made with nonfat 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.

濃口醤油は製法によって「本醸造」「混合」「混合醸造」の3種類に分けることができます。桑田醤油はこの3種類の醤油を全て手がけています。/Dark soy sauce can be divided into three types: pure brew, amino acid solution, and amino acid solution brew soy sauce. The differences among these brews depend on whether amino acid solution is added, or when it was added in the brewing process. Amino acids make the soy sauce sweeter, and is typically consumed in the southern part of Japan. Pure brew soy sauce does not have amino acid solution, and is the most common type people use(80%). The second type of brew is when amino acid solution is added to the refined soy sauce, prior to pasteurization. The last brew is when amino acid solution is added to the moromi, or the main fermenting mash. Kuwata Soy Sauce produces all three kinds.



At the end of searching

Kuwata wanted to make soy sauce unique to Yamaguchi Prefecture. By using local whole soybeans and wheat, brewed in 100 year-old traditional kioke, Kuwata desired to produce soy sauce that had the taste of Yamaguchi Prefecture’s four seasons.

ヤマロク醤油の山本さんと桑田さん。/Kuwata (right) with Yamamoto (left) of Yamaroku Soy Sauce.
どっしり構えるのは小麦を炒る機械。歴史を感じずにはいられないレンガ造り。もちろん現役で稼働しています。/Just seeing this 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. 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 finally found a skilled brewer from Oka Naosaburo Brewery in Gunma Prefecture that he could learn from. 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 was finally able to produce sweet soy sauce with whole soybeans, locally produced for local consumption.





“I want to be an honest soy sauce shop”

Sweet soy sauce contains additives, so it often gains a bad rep for being unhealthy. Despite the criticism, Kuwata 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 brews them through the three different methods: the pure brew, amino acid solution, and amino acid solution brew. The unique combination of the three allows soy sauce to remain neutral. Kuwata says, “I want to be an upright and honest soy sauce shop for our consumers. I want to be able to say ‘Welcome, welcome’ to anyone who comes to visit at any point in time.

まだまだ一升瓶が活躍しています。地元の料理店などにはもちろんのこと、小学校の給食や病院などにも桑田醤油が運ばれています。/In addition to local restaurants, Kuwata Brewery also transports their soy sauce to primary schools and hospitals.


マルクワ醤油 うまくち

価格 : 362円+税/ 原材料 :アミノ酸液/食塩(国産)/脱脂加工大豆/小麦(山口県産)/砂糖/カラメル色素/調味料(アミノ酸等)/甘味料(ステビア、甘草)/保存料(パラオキシ安息香酸)/V.B1



価格 : 476円+税 / 原材料 : 橙果汁/しょうゆ(本醸造)/鰹だし/昆布エキス/調味料(アミノ酸等)/カラメル色素/甘味料(ステビア、甘草)/アルコール/原材料の一部に大豆、小麦を含む
桑田醤油 有限会社
〒747-0029 山口県防府市松崎町8-11
TEL:0835-22-0386  FAX:0835-22-0441