Local miso in Gujo Horeki miso

The reason of starting to visit sake brewery in Gujo and getting interested in fermented food in Gujo is local miso.

My husband’s mother born and raised in Gujo. When my husband was a child, he ate a lot of local miso. He remembers that the taste of this local miso is much stronger than soybean miso in Aichi-ken, where we live now.

After I tried several kinds of local miso in Gujo, its taste and flavor much stronger than those I have in Aichi-ken.

However, when you use it to make miso soup, the taste changes and becomes fresh. I am so surprised with the change. The local people recommend me to visit “Miso Brewery Hatanaka Shoten”, the maker of Horeki miso.

The only brewing method in Japan!
Gujo farmers protecting the tradition way of miso production

The only brewing method in Japan!
Gujo farmers protecting the tradition way of miso production

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Driving for around 20mins from Gujo Hachiman towards Yamato-cho Manba. Trees along the road are shining after a rain. When I am fascinated by the beautiful scenery, I see a lady standing and waiting for us. We just arrived and saw a signboard saying “Hatanaka Shoten, Horeki miso”. The wife of the third generation Ms Misato Hatanaka comes and welcomes us. I can feel her energy when she introduces and shows us around.

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“We keep the traditional way to make miso. Boil 8-to (1 to is around 18L) of soybean and roast 2-to of barley. It is quicker if you steamed all the soybean at one time, but I want to continue using the traditional way. It is more convenience to boil at home. “The traditional way of making miso” issued 58 years ago in 1962, also stated the same method of making miso.” Said Ms Misato. They keep using the same ingredients, soybean from Gifu-ken, barley from Hokuriku and salt from Naruto.

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Mix roasted barley with koji and spread on the boiled soybean. After that, separate it into small boxes and put them into the fermentation room. “We start preparing local miso from December to April. Because barley is sticky so it is better to start preparing in cold weather. We need to control the room temperature. Use hands to separate them and replace boxes for 4 days. When the 4th day comes, we need to bring them out of the room and start brewing.”

My husband, operating a koji maker, is so surprised. After making many kinds of miso, reading lots of reference of miso and visiting plenty of miso breweries, miso brewing in Hatanaka Shoten is so unique. “I have never heard of this method and ingredients used. The only one in Japan.”

We usually steam soybean koji. I have never heard of boiling soybean to make koji. Because moisture inside the soybean will produce bacteria, we, a koji maker in Aichi-ken, cannot think of any advantage of boiling soybean. In making soybean miso, we only add 1~2% of roasted barley instead of 20%. Even barley miso, we use barley koji instead of soybean koji.

There are many miso breweries start from family base to business base, but most of them changed to use more efficient way to brew and changed taste that is likable by the public. However, Hatanaka Shoten remains the same. It shows how they want to maintain the tradition and how the people in Gujo support them.

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“First, use a large plastic container which is around 60~70L, put koji, water and salt inside and mix well. Transfer to a 900~1000kg large container. Place a wooden weight and let it mellow. This transferring procedure is necessary that you need to make the miso up-side-down in order to get fully fermented.”

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The finished miso is like this! So mushy!
“It is so soft! I am living in Aichi-ken (Where is famous for miso), and I know a lot about soybean miso which is usually harder. Soybean miso like this can be found only in Gujo!”
In tradition, soy sauce and miso are coming from the same tub, this traditional way of making miso is supported by the locals until today.

My husband tries a sip of miso. Because of his job as a koji maker, he collects and studies many kinds of koji from all over the world filling over half of the fridge. “This is what I had in my childhood! Actually, it is my first-time tasting miso itself. The strong salty flavor and sourness mix well together to make a good taste. This mushy paste melts easily and make it easy to cook.”

When we ask Ms Misato how she thinks about this local miso, she says “Rustic!” and makes everyone laugh.
“The flavor is very strong, isn’t it? Some people love it, but some hate it. But it is okay. It is why this place is loved by the locals.”

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You can visit if you are interested. Please remember to make reservation in advance. Products are available in Hatanaka Shoten, Roadside Station Kokindenjunosato Yamato, Yutakanoichi, Gifu Yamato Parking Area, Gujo Shunsai-kan Yamato-no-asaichi (Gujo Yamato Morning Market), Yamato Riverside Town Pio, A.Coop Okumi branch and Gujo branch.

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Dishes using local miso from Hatanaka Shoten
A local restaurant “Hachiya”

Dishes using local miso from Hatanaka Shoten
A local restaurant “Hachiya”

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After seeing how the local miso is brewed, we would want to try local cuisine that uses this miso. We visit a restaurant in Gujo-shi yamato-cho Oomami. You can try Japanese cuisine using local ingredients in this old building. We order today’s lunch set “Hana-kago (Flower basket) lunch (864JPY)” and the most popular local cuisine “Kei-chan (Stir fried chicken with miso sauce) (570JPY)”.

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Hana-kago lunch set comes first. It looks so delicious! I cannot believe it only costs 864JPY!
“We use miso from Hatanaka Shoten to make this miso soup.” The staff here told us.

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The smell and taste are strong, but it matches the flavor of Dashi (Soup stock). It becomes soft and mild. I am so pleased after a whole day trip.

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Next is “Kei-chan” using miso from Hatanaka Shoten. “Kei-chan” is written as chicken in Japanese. After soaking chicken with miso and other seasonings, stir fry with cabbage and other vegetable. Steam coming out from the chicken looks so good. When you try a bite of the chicken, sweetness and spiciness spread around your mouth. The taste is rich, and the meat is juicy. Mixing with cabbage makes the taste become lighter and makes me want to have more!

All dishes are cost effective, and staff is so nice. It makes me want to visit again!

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A unit, to promote the food culture in Japan leading to the future in the next 100 years, is formed by husband “A farmer and a maltster” facing with the blessings of nature and wife “A soy sauce sommelier and designer”. They aim to introduce Japanese food culture with fermented food supported by agriculture, fisheries and forestry.

Husband : Mr Takashi Miyamoto

He started a new koji venture in the Koji industry. He uses pesticide-free and chemical-free fertilizers in preparing miso. He was fascinated by the world of fermentation and started running a Koji shop in Nishihazu-cho, Nishio-shi, Aichi-ken. He also holds a Miso and Soysauce Study Circle for more than 1000 people a year.

Wife : Ms Keiko Kuroshima(Miyamoto)

A soy sauce, olive oil sommelier & designer. She was born in the soy sauce town of Shodoshima Island and grew up with the brewers. Based in Shodoshima, she continues to visit brewers nationwide and continues to connect people and things through design, writing, and recipe making. She published “Soy Sauce Book” from Genko Publishing.

Photographs by miyamoto