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Apr 3, 2008 01:05 PM

Artisan soy sauces

I'm a weird guy. I think soy sauces are akin to fine wine and should be treated as such. It is such an unappreciated artform because of what is available these days in the US. As a result, I've been exploring the world of high quality, artisan, traditionally made soy sauces to break away from the La Choys of the world. And the world is endless, with soy sauces aged for years in oak barrels, unpasteurized soy sauces, etc.

I've only bought a couple of brands so far and open a few.

Mitoku Brand Johsen Organic Shoyu, and Mitoku Brand Sakurazawa Yuuki unpasteurized Shoyu

Johsen shoyu is quite different than most soy sauces I've tried, as it has toasty flavors of chocolate and coffee in it. Something about it reminds me much of a nice dark beer.

Sakurazawa is basically the essence of umami. It has an incredibly sweet aroma and flavor and is very subtle on the salt.

I have a small bottle of Mitoku's Yaemon Organic Tamari and Eden's select Shoyu that I plan on trying later, but there are so many out there (some that are quite expensive and are made by family owned breweries).

What are some soy sauces out there that you would treasure like your favorite bottle of wine?

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  1. You're on a good track with those you mention. Please tell us more about Sakurazawa.

    A few others are described in these threads. My personal fave is Misomaster Tamari described within:

    1. I am very inexperienced with soy sauce. I basically pour the little packages into a bowl and mix with wasabi for my take-out sushi, and I use it as an ingredient in dressings and marinade. Most of my family dumps it on rice.

      So I was wondering. If you're "tasting" soy sauce, exactly how are you eating? Do you eat it on rice, or rmaybe (?) drink it? (Like I said, I'm clueless.)

      6 Replies
      1. re: miss_bennet

        I love using my special soy sauces for tamago kake gohan, which is basically just plain rice, raw egg, and soy sauce. I put a little sesame seeds and nori on top. Man it is heaven. But I usually use it as a dipping sauce or an after-seasoning for soups or fish. I guess if I could, I would also drink it, but I'm not sure if that's too healthy.

        Tamari is a great dipping sauce for sashimi, but you can splurge with some real high grade stuff. There is the famed Ohara Hisakichi I've been trying to get my hands on, but man that stuff is expensive.

        The Sakurazawa according to the Mitoku description on the back of the bottle is "soy sauce is made exclusively for the Ohsawa Japan Company. Uncompromising when it comes to quality, Ohsawa's brewmaster uses the finest ingredients: special washed Oshima Island "umi no sei" sea salt, "yuuki" soybeans and wheat ecologically grown by farmers with a deep commitment to sustainable agriculture. Each step of the traditional process is carefully performed by hand, from the critical preparation of koji (cultured wheat and soybeans) to daily stirring of shoyu. Naturally aged for two years in cedar casks, Sakurazawa Shoyu is an outsanding savory saesoning that is ideal for sushi and brings out the natural flavors in any recipe calling for soy sauce. Unpasteurized. Refridgerate after opening."

        On the website I bought it (
        )it says "In honor of George Ohsawa, we are using his Japanese family name "Sakurazawa" as the brand-name of this exceptional soy sauce."

        Basically this stuff has living koji in it. I'm not really sure if it means it gets better with age or it has specific health properties like yogurt, but the taste is sure magnificent.

        Speaking of Ohsawa, they also make something called "nama shoyu" which literally means "Raw soy sauce". I think it was the favorite pick for America's Test Kitchen. I have to get my hands on that.

        1. re: takadi

          i just got some organic Nama Shoyu (unpasterized soy sauce) made by Ohsawa. $21.65 for a 32 fl. Oz bottle. Somewhere in the back of my mind i remembered seeing that name from this thread so I bought it and then came home to make sure. Now, reading the thread, I realized that i had gotten (still have some) a small bottle of the Mitoku shoyu when i was looking for something for my hand ground soba. It tasted good but a while later i found some white stuff floating in the bottle ...oops, probably should have refridgerated it...but then i took a skimmer and skimmed th floating stuff off, and now the rest is in my fridge.

          anyhow, thanks for putting these names in my head. They are so much tastier than store bought soy sauce!

          1. re: HLing

            I tried out the Nama Shoyu for the first time. It's strong stuff. As advertised it tastes very raw and "young", almost as if it is still in the process of fermenting. It tastes almost like a light stout beer. The soy sauce bubbled and foamed up when I opened it. Nothing like any soy sauce I've tried before. It has a pronounced "yeasty" quality similar to kikkoman that I enjoy

            1. re: takadi

              That's interesting because I find it much milder (and certainly less salty) than any other shoyu I've ever bought. I've been using it forever, since the days it was aged four years (I'm guessing it's sold younger now to meet demand).

              1. re: MacGuffin

                On the bottle it claims that it has been aged for two summers.

                1. re: takadi

                  That's now (and for quite some time prior). 20-odd years ago, it was a four-year shoyu. It's a case of this: (I have no idea of why they're still using this description) vs. this: . Back in the day, the former was on the bottle. I called Gold Mine some years back when I noticed the change. It's STILL a great shoyu and I didn't notice a discernible difference in taste when I bought the new stuff. Just sayin' things used to be different.

      2. Awesome! I found a new brand called Yamato Hishio

        From the latter link, it seems to be made from the same process of draft beer, keeping all the nutritional goodness and subtle flavors. Amazing

        1. How are Mitoku's soy sauces? I haven't had them but they have a huge following with the macrobiotic community.

          10 Replies
          1. re: Miss Needle

            Simply Natural is a company out of New Hampshire that caters to macrobiotic products. They carry a lot of Mitoku products. (Including my favorite mirin, as mentioned on other threads.)

            George Ohsawa is one of the primary names for macrobiotics on the west coast as Michio Kushi is on the east. Since food is primary for macrobiotics, whether or not one is macrobiotic they're usually a great source of quality stuff.

            1. re: Richard 16

              I just found out (I tend to be slow on the uptake at times) that Mitoku is Ohsawa Japan's US sub-distributor and that what Goldmine sells is NOT from Ohsawa Japan; they trademarked the name "Ohsawa," which is pretty misleading. Regardless, the nama shoyu I've been buying all these years is still delicious, regardless of whose name is on it. I'm now wondering if this is actually Mitoku's Sakurazawa Yuuki shoyu.

              1. re: MacGuffin

                I am so depressed, the two year sakurazawa shoyu seems to be discontinued. To this day I consider it one of the best tasting soy sauces I've ever tasted

                1. re: takadi

                  Are you sure it's discontinued? It could be that they're just sold out and are awaiting another batch. I say (post?) this because when checking Natural Import Company's site last year, it was "not available," then it briefly was (and like an idiot, I didn't ask my vendor to order it), and now it shows up again as "not available," in contrast to, I might add, the Johsen soy sauce which is "no longer available." I think the distinction is that the former is a temporary situation while the latter is permanent, so perhaps all is not lost. In the meantime, the readily available Nama Shoyu really is good.


                  Probable explanation for unavailability of Johsen: .

                  1. re: MacGuffin

                    I've checked it many times of the past few months and it hasn't been available so I assumed it was discontinued. There is a possibility that production is just slow

                    1. re: takadi

                      I'll bet it's not discontinued. And of course it IS slow--it takes two years--maybe they have two runs going that finish in alternating years? Don't forget that it's an artisanal product. It was briefly available last year, so don't give up hope. And you could always ask the importer--I'm sure they'd be upfront with you.

                      1. re: MacGuffin

                        Wow so I've been checking here and there for the last year and no luck. It hasn't shown up. I finally gave natural imports a call today. I didn't really catch all the details but apparently some regulatory agency here wanted them to change their equipment to more "sanitary" stainless steel and more modernized production methods. They refused to change the ways they made sakurazawa so now it's no longer available in the US. What a damn shame.

                        1. re: takadi

                          I've checked the NI site a few times over the last several months and haven't seen it either. Now I'm really bummed. And even though as a libertarian-type I shouldn't be, I'm also shocked. Talk about over-the-top meddling bureaucracy. :O

                          1. re: MacGuffin

                            I was told they have other unpasteurized products, though I doubt they are of the same quality


                            I gave the site above a call and they claim to have it. I asked if they had a smaller size and they do have a 10 oz version. I checked their products and it turns out the 10 oz version is the Ohsawa nama shoyu, not the 2 year sakurazawa (at least that's what's pictured). So I am unsure if they actually do have backstock or they are mistaking the sakurazawa with the Ohsawa.

                            1. re: takadi

                              My hunch is that it's the latter. I can buy Nama Shoyu in the store; what I want is the sakurazawa. Geez, how many hundreds of years have people been consuming unpasteurized soy sauce?

          2. Does anyone know where I can buy a good brand of saishikomi in the US?