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Miso Mecca - The Oldest Hatcho Miso Manfacturer

Tags miso

Pastry lovers will make that trip to Paris, pizza connoisseurs will head to Naples, dim sum fans will devour dumplings in Hong Kong. Every dish has its mecca; that place to taste the original; to enjoy the real thing. 

For miso maniacs like me, I made my foodie pilgrimage to… Okazaki in Aichi.

3 hours from Tokyo on the bullet train (Shinkansen) later… I made it!

Hatcho miso is the darkest form of miso, almost black in colour. It tastes like an aromatic soy sauce but is hard and tough like brand-new play-doh. Maruya Hatcho Miso is the oldest existing Hatcho miso maker in Japan and has been operating since 1337. Hatcho miso draws its name from its proximity to Okazaki Castle -“Hatcho” refers to the fact that the miso factory was 8 blocks from the castle (“ha” meaning 8, and “cho” meaning one city block).

A real delicacy in Japan, it is best known for being the Miso-of-Choice of the Emperors in Japan. The most famous shogun in Japanese history,  Ieyasu Tokugawa lived in Okazaki castle and this was the miso he drank every day. This is Ancient Japanese craft at its best… making miso for the last 700 years using traditional methods and preserving its traditions.

Outside, you get a little preview of what we were about to see inside; tens of barrels waiting to be filled with the next batch of soy beans for fermentation. Each barrel measures 2 metres wide by 2 metres deep and they are made from over 200 Japanese cedar wood trees each. It requires almost a full year to make each one! There are only a few masters left who can construct these barrels in the traditional way (that last around 100 years). The clever bit is that these barrels are made with no nails at all, just bamboo strapping them together tightly!
The factory was cool and dark. Unlike more modern methods of making miso, there were no temperature-controls in here; only soy beans quietly fermenting in their cedar barrels in the natural climate over ‘3 winters’, before it is dug out to be packed for sale. And here’s an interesting dinner party fact for you! Hatcho miso has been taken on all Japanese Expeditions to the South pole because of its high nutritional content, lowest salt compared to other miso, and for being stable in harsh surroundings. This is miso for the adventurous; the explorers.

 

Carefully chosen rocks provide the finishing touch to the slow fermentation of the soy beans. Each weighing at least 60kgs each, the rocks push up to 4 tonnes in weight onto the 6 tonnes of miso that are inside each barrel. Its pyramidal formation ensures that the barrels do not get damaged during an earthquake too – they really do think of everything!

For more information,head to the website of Maruya Hatcho Miso  where there are some helpful parts translated into English. Maruya Hatcho miso is perhaps one of the most renowned brands of miso in Japan. During the Second World War, because of rationing, the Imperial Army sent orders to reduce the quantity of soy used (and hence the quality) in the manufacture of miso, Maruya Hatcho miso refused, and eventually won out in order to continue producing the best quality miso. That’s the spirit!


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