It is said that of all of Japan’s soy sauce, the sauce manufactured in traditional wooden barrels makes up less than one percent. Fueki Shoyu Brewing, located in Kawajima Town, Saitama Prefecture, takes pride in their “Kioke (wooden barrel) craft soy sauce manufactured by artisans.” Their soy sauce is created in wooden barrels, with much of the brewing process still done by hand. In this article, we introduce Fueki Shoyu’s “Shoyu for Sweets,” launched with the hopes of creating more occasions to enjoy the delicious taste of soy sauce.
Let’s see why Fueki Shoyu’s Shoyu for Sweets makes a great gift.
Fueki Shoyu’s star product is its Kinbue Shoyu—a dark soy sauce aged for two summers to create a rich flavor known as umami. Shoyu for Sweets is based on Kinbue Saishikomi Namashoyu soy sauce, which is brewed with raw soy sauce from Kinbue Shoyu instead of salt water. This is combined with brown and granulated sugar and boiled down in a large pot to add a subtle sweetness to the refined flavor of Kinbue Saishikomi Namashoyu, for a completely new taste that Japanese people find somewhat nostalgic. This sweetened soy sauce can be enjoyed on ice cream, yogurt, bread and much more. It is manufactured from safe and trustworthy ingredients, making it a perfect gift to households with children.
Surprisingly, there are eight different bottle designs for Shoyu for Sweets! The endearing facial expressions on the bottles will surely charm you. There is also a bottle design with a blank face, allowing purchasers to customize with messages and expressions for an original bottle, perfect as a gift!
We visited the Fueki Shoyu factory in Saitama’s Kawajima Town to ask about the birth of Shoyu for Sweets.
This region features sprawling rice paddies. It is also historically a location for quality soy beans and wheat farming, with its rich soil and many rivers around the region. The brewery was established in 1789 and has continued its traditional production of Kioke soy sauce for over 200 years.
“Using wooden barrels and allowing nature to take over the fermentation and aging process takes a long time. However, this is the key in creating delicious soy sauce with a rich flavor,” explains Kichigoro Fueki, the 12th generation head of Fueki Shoyu Brewing. Mr. Fueki grew up with the soy sauce factory, and became the head of Fueki Shoyu in 2017.
The soy sauce storehouse is full of the pleasant aroma of soy sauce fermentation mash (moromi), in which carefully selected soy beans and wheat are used for the painstaking brewing process. The storehouse does not use any air-conditioning, and utilizes the regional climate for fermentation. As this year’s summer weather was unconditionally hot, the aging process progressed faster than usual. However, according to the brewery, this also made for delicious soy sauce. Allowing nature to take over the aging process by applying regional ingredients and climate makes soy sauce brewing almost like producing wine. Mr. Fueki commented, “Each region produces its own unique soy sauce.”
Fueki Shoyu had already developed low-salt soy sauce over 30 years ago, and this product is popular amongst individuals on low-salt diets. The brewery also has various long-selling products which are loved by the locals, such as the all-mighty dashinomoto instant bouillon and additive-free sesame dressing created from quality local ingredients.
We spoke to the brewery publicist and wife of Mr. Fueki, Koharu Fueki, about how the innovative Shoyu for Sweets came about in this traditional Fueki Shoyu environment.
In the summer of 2017, there was an idea to make a soy sauce-flavored shaved ice dish with Fukuroya, a Japanese confectionary store established in 1875 that is located in neighboring Kawagoe City, in collaboration with Tokyo International University. The shaved ice was called “Shaved ice with Kinbue Namahishiomitsu and sweet soy sauce” and featured a syrup using Fueki Shoyu’s raw soy sauce and brown sugar. The unexpected combination earned quite a reputation in Fukuroya store.
Using soy sauce as a shaved ice syrup prompted Fueki Shoyu to start the development of a soy sauce condiment that could be used in desserts, as the brewery was searching for more diverse applications for its soy sauce. It took approximately one year to create the Shoyu for Sweets product, under the supervision of Fukuroya.
“Unlike the past, younger generations do not purchase soy sauce in one-liter bottles anymore. Our products are sold in smaller bottles to make it for approachable to consumers. The Shoyu for Sweets product also features a smaller bottle that makes it more accessible.”
A young designer based in Kawagoe City was selected for the package design. A design featuring various facial expressions was chosen to allow purchasers to select the optimal design for gifts and presents.
“This soy sauce can be used like maple syrup—it goes very well with various dishes. Vanilla ice cream and yogurt are staple desserts that go well with this product. It is also very good with soybean flour. A nearby nursery dresses macaroni and soybean flour with Shoyu for Sweets as a snack. We tried that combination, and it was delicious!” says Ms. Fueki.
Fueki Shoyu says that it takes their commitment to “creating delicious soy sauce, and supporting a cheerful and abundant diet” very seriously.
As a soy sauce brewery, they have launched a “100 Year Project” to hand down the culture of producing environmentally-friendly, safe and trustworthy soy sauce to the future.
Fueki Shoyu has commissioned organic farmers who do not use pesticides or chemical fertilizers to grow the particularly sweet Aoyama beans in Ogawa Town in Saitama Prefecture for use in soy sauce production. The planting and harvesting of these beans are conducted as workshops, allowing anyone interested to participate. Many adults and children, who are not familiar with farming, team up to do these farming chores.
Additionally, Fueki Shoyu has asked craftsmen all over Japan to construct wooden barrels to protect the traditional method of soy sauce brewing. In 2016, a new barrel made from Yoshino cedar was created for the first time in 50 years. The challenge continues as larger-sized barrels are being constructed in 2017 and 2018 as well.
The barrels were decorated with messages to the moromi, which will be placed in the barrels, hoping for successful soy sauce brewing. Fueki Shoyu also conducts various activities. The brewery holds an annual Fueki Shoyu anniversary festival for local citizens, featuring moromi squeezing and oar-paddling experiences, along with factory tours and lectures on Japanese food culture for children at schools.
“We want local children to be familiar with having a traditional soy sauce brewery in their neighborhood. As a mother, I know how trying it is to make home-cooked meals every day for one’s children. That is why I believe that having quality condiments will make cooking a little easier, delicious and fun! My wish is to have Fueki Shoyu’s soy sauce play that role,” says Ms. Fueki.
Each bottle of soy sauce is full of future hopes from this regionally-oriented soy sauce brewery. Why not select it as a gift for someone special?
Writer : KAORI NOZAWA / Photographer : CHIE MARUYAMA & CHIZU TAKAKURA
*Some of the images posted on our website have been provided by those whom we inter-viewed.
|Address||660 Kamiigusa, Kawajima Town, Hiki-gun, Saitama Prefecture|
|Hours||9:00-17:30 Saturdays, Sundays and Holidays: 9:00-17:00|
|Closed||Japanese New Year holiday period|
|Address||10-5 Saiwai-cho, Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture|
|Closed||Irregular shop holidays|