Young brewer revives traditional soy sauce

Mitsuru Soy Sauce Brewery (Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture)

Who is the face of hope in the soy sauce industry? If asked, I would say Yoshinori Jo. This is a progressive story of a young brewer who is determined to revive his brewing company before entering college.

Soy sauce brewery in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture.

Restoring the traditional brewing methods

Since 2010, "The Challenging Struggles in Reviving Soy Sauce" has been added to this site. Jo?san's first successful batch of soy sauce was celebrated in February 2013.

 * (コラム) 醤油仕込み復活 挑戦の奮闘記

Yoshinori Jo is a young, upcoming brewer that is attracting attention and expectation within the industry.

Brewing requires a great deal of land and money

As a result from the promotion law, Mitsuru Brewery lost all the tools, equipment, and the necessary amount of land used for traditional brewing methods. In the soy sauce industry, one must have a large area for all the procedures such as: a room to prepare the ingredients; a kojimuro (koji room) to make koji (a naturally occurring mold); an area for constructing the kioke (wooden barrels); and a room for fermentation.

In addition, you would also need equipment for steaming soybeans, equipment for roasting wheat, the necessary tools to repair the kioke barrels, and a stone or wooden press to refine the soy sauce mixture.

It is already difficult enough to challenge modern soy sauce productions, let alone revive traditional soy sauce brewing. And this is the reason why Jo?san is drawing attention from within the industry.

Mixing together steamed soybeans, roasted wheat, and koji.

The soybean mixture after incorporating all the ingredients.

A man named Yoshinori Jo

“Do you know Yoshinori Jo?kun, operator of the soy sauce shop in Fukuoka?” asked a local soy sauce shop owner. Normally, other topics are discussed. However, the name “Yoshinori Jo” always comes out of the mouths of brewers throughout Japan.

When Jo?san was a high school student, he decided, “I want to revive my own brewery someday!” Since then, he would visit the Department of Brewery at Tokyo Agricultural University to help make soy sauce during long holidays, oftentimes working through the night.

News quickly spread of Jo?san reviving his brewing company all over the country, oftentimes saying, “Jo?kun is making his own soy sauce at his home!” Many veteran brewers watched over Jo?san’s challenges as if they were his mentor or parent.

In order to keep his brewery as clean as possible, kakishibu or “persimmon juice” is painted on the outside of the kioke barrels. Kakishibu is a safe, environmentally-friendly, natural coating that is applied on wood. It adds antiseptic, insecticidal, and water resistant properties, all without interfering the wood’s porous surface (which is critical for fermentation).

Passing down tradition

The basics of soy sauce?making are the same for every brewery. However, the small details vary between factory to factory. For example, preference of which tools to use during the fermenting process; temperature control while making koji; frequency of stirring during the morning; managing the kioke barrels; and etc.

Generally, soy sauce breweries are continued as a family business. Many of these successors will gradually improve the brewery while inheriting it. This is why they use the term “passing down tradition.”

However, in Jo?san’s case, he didn’t inherit any brewery. He had to find the most suitable land for brewing soy sauce in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture.

The unrefined fermenting mash will age for more than two summers.

But because there isn’t…

When Jo?san was a student, he had experience working at various breweries. When reviving his own, he would take their good ideas, and adopt it into his own brewery.

Oftentimes people ask Jo?san, “Why did you choose this approach?” and he responds to their questions by implementing these ideas into action, conducts research, and shows them the results. If the idea doesn’t work out, then he will try and adapt to what he is given. Jo?san’s approach to brewing has always been flexible.

Jo?san’s ingenuity shines through his koji trays, which are larger and have a mesh lining at the bottom. Conventional koji trays are smaller and can only be held in one hand.

It takes about three days for the fermenting mash to become into this state. The koji mold propagates, and changes its appearance.

Boldly developing the koji trays

Koji?making is the most important process in brewing soy sauce. At Mitsuru Brewery, the koji tray is enlarged to a size never seen in traditional brewing. The bottom plate consists of a mesh material.

Jo?san comments on his trays: “I thought this size and shape was good for uniform temperature control. I originally saw this size at an older soy sauce shop, but was unusable because there was no mesh material. This is a relatively new material, so it wouldn’t have been available in the past. But having the koji tray at this size will allow me to better control the high heat. I would use this size in making koji.”

Neatly arranged kioke barrels.

Pumping the moromi (main fermenting mash) out for refinement.

Ever?evolving soy sauce

In 2011, Jo?san began preparations for brewing soy sauce. By 2013, he had created his first batch of soy sauce. Prior to reviving the brewery, Jo?san trained at Okamoto Soy Sauce in Hiroshima Prefecture for 1 year. When Jo?san had the owner and the two sons try his first batch of soy sauce, they were impressed, and exclaimed, “This is really pure and delicious soy sauce!”

“The moromi is especially delicious. I think it is better to make this taste as a ‘product’. I also believe it is better to produce soy sauce this way,” said the Okamoto soy sauce owner excitedly.

The day of the first press (refinement). Fellow brewers of Okamoto Soy Sauce from Hiroshima Prefecture rushed to help Jo?san.

Aiming for higher goals

Jo?san is still aggressive in making his brewery better, “Improvements will only be visible if you put in the effort. I am planning on modifying certain areas that I’m not particularly experienced at. So I will definitely make something better next year!”

Next year’s soy sauce is more delicious than this year’s batch.Perhaps Jo?san’s soy sauce should be called “evolving soy sauce.”

A young brewer challenges traditional tastes with one drop


生成り、こいくち 100ml

Naturally brewed soy sauce in kioke barrels, aged for two years. Raw materials include soybeans, wheat, and salt, all produced in Kyushu. A young brewer challenges to make simple soy sauce on the land of Kyushu, where sweet soy sauce is preferred.

価格 : \476 + tax
原材料 : soybeans, wheat, salt


soybeans, wheat, salt


生成り、うすくち 100ml

Soybeans, wheat, and rice produced in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture. Salt is produced in Shimamasu, Okinawa. A young brewer challenges to make simple soy sauce on the land of Kyushu, where sweet soy sauce is preferred.

価格 : \428 + tax
原材料 : soybeans, wheat, salt, rice


A young brewer challenges traditional tastes with one drop


生成り、さいしこみ 100ml

大豆、Soybeans and wheat are produced in Itoshima, Fukuoka Prefecture. Salt is produced in Shimamasu, Okinawa and Saga Prefecture. This soy sauce has thicker consistency than regular soy sauce. A young brewer challenges to make simple soy sauce on the land of Kyushu, where sweet soy sauce is preferred.

価格 : \600 + tax
原材料 : soybeans, wheat, salt



Mitsuru Soy Sauce Brewing Company

925-2 Fukae, Nijo-cho, Itoshima-shi, Fukuoka Prefecture 〒819-1601
TEL092-325-0026  FAX:092-325-0654