Home of Soy Sauce "Hishio no Sato"
100 minutes away from Himeji port, 3 hours from Kobe by ferry, Shodoshima island, the second biggest island next to Awaji island, is located in the Setouchi Inland Sea.
The nostalgic island is dotted with olive trees around seaside hills, and 1000 soy sauce barrels. In its peak period, it is said that there were 400 soy sauce makers in the island.
Approximately 2000 to 3000 soy sauce barrels throughhout Japan, of which 1000 are found in Shodoshima. Less than 1 % of Japanese soy sauce are produced in the wooden barrels, and 1/3 of wooden barrels are indeed located in Shodo shima island.
"Hishio (醤)" stands for salted foods, Koku bishio (穀醤) is fermented beans or rice, and said to be an origin of soy sauce. Now, the island try to promote the island's food culture and soy sauce production as "Hishio no Sato".
Food Ingredients production in the island
The origin of soy sauce production is actually dates back to sea salt production started on the island during the mid-3rd century BC to late 3rd century AD. Since then salt production had been an important industry for the islands. During Edo period (1603-1868), the new industries were developed with abundant availability of salt, such as the production of soy sauce and tsukudani (seafood, meat or seaweed simmered in soy sauce and miring). Somen noodle production also flourished during Edo period. Today, the island is also known as the first successful olive production area in Japan. These abundant food ingredients developed the island’s unique food culture.
The climate of Shodo shima island is similar to Mediterranean climate, temperate, dried and long hours of sunshine. This is the favorable environment for growing kobo yiest and lactic acid bacteria.
The origin of Yamaroku shoyu is also reported to be a salt producer, and soy sauce production was started approximately 150 years ago.
A 100-year old wooden warehouse is designated as an important national heritage, and you can see the bacterias actually living in the ware house. In the 60 wood barrels, earth wall, sealing, there might be millions of bacterias!
Yamaroku offers a tour to visit the warehouse with free admission fee. There is also a small cafe, "Yamaroku chaya", where you can taste different meals with soy sauce, i.e.) soy sauce ice-cream, mochi with soy sauce, and soy sauce sweets. The café is open from 9:00 to 17:00.
Marukin is a leading soy sauce producer on the island. There is a good soy sauce museum on its factory sites. The museum explains the production process, and also exhibits traditional tools and materials. The museum has English displays and a gift shop that sells many different varieties of soy sauce.
Morikuni Shuzo sake brewery
Morikuni Shuzo, the only one sake brewery in the island, is a young sake brewery, established in 2005. It uses spring water of “Hosigajo”, the highest peak on Shodo-shima island with its ideal rice harvested from the Seto Inland Sea’s coastal regions to brew Japanese sake.
There is also a cafe, and a ground mother "obaa-chan" cooks "makanai", which is literally stands for providing meals for workers, with using affluent sake lees. I really recommend to eat makanai. Miso soup with sake kasu lees, pickles and the island's rice, tsukudani, all are great.
The brewery also owns bakery in the next building, and it uses rice powder and sake.
Take train to Himeji, Kobe, Okayama or Takamatsu, then ferry ride to the island.