Interview with Kensuke Osugi from Daikō Shōyu: Japanese Soy Sauce From Yesterday to Today

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  • Tokusen: Kensuke-san, thank you for taking the time to talk to us today about Daikō Shōyu, this artisanal soy sauce brewery. To get started, tell us a bit about the history of your business.
  • Kensuke: Daikō Shōyu was founded in 1852 by Kodaira Osugi. Six generations later, I inherited the business and plan to leave it to my children at the end of my career.
  • Tokusen : Due to its long history, we can certainly qualify Daikō Shōyu as shinise (老 舗), these Japanese companies in business for more than 100 years. Tell us how your business has grown over time.
  • Kensuke : Our commitment to continuously improve our products while maintaining our traditional brewing methods have made our success. Respect of the ingredients and the fact we never cut corners allows our soy sauces to reflect the spirit of their creators. In other words, we aim to brew soy sauce based on the concept of "various small quantities of good products" (良品 多種 少量) to meet our customers' expectations. 
  • Tokusen : What is the difference between your soy sauce and the one that can be bought at the supermarket?
  • Kensuke : Contrary to what we find in the supermarket, our soy sauces are aged from 2 to 3 years. Aging takes place in Japanese cedar barrels called taru (樽). The long process allows yeasts and different enzymes to transform the basic ingredients into a soy sauce full of flavors. 
  • Tokusen : What are the main ingredients used to brew soy sauce?
  • Kensuke : Soybeans, wheat, salt and water are the basic ingredients used to make soy sauce. Added to this is the kōji (麹), a microscopic fungus used as a ferment.
  • Tokusen : Why do you still brew traditional soy sauce today?        
  • Kensuke : Since our foundation in 1852, we have strived to create products that appeal to the local population. At the time, locals were poor, but thanks to the spirit of mutual aid which reigns here, we have developed a sustainable business which meets the needs of the population. It is our duty to honour them by maintaining the highest quality standards.
  • Tokusen : What are the biggest challenges facing the traditional soy sauce industry today?
  • Kensuke : The challenges of business succession are important, because fewer and fewer young people are attracted by the preservation of rural traditions. Demand for soy sauce is also dwindling in Japan as a result of declining populations and changing lifestyles. But thanks to the collaboration with Tokusen, we are exporting our products for the first time outside of Japan and hope that they will be valued by people in Canada.
  • Tokusen : How does the Kinomoto terroir, the commune where you are located, affect the taste of your products?
  • Kensuke : The Shiga prefecture's Kinomoto commune is located near mountains. The water we use comes from a well that is supplied with water filtered naturally by the surrounding mountains. The climate is also suitable for brewing soy sauce: cold temperatures in winter are ideal for starting the soy sauce brewing process, while seasonal temperature changes help regulate the work of yeasts during the fermentation process.
  • Tokusen : How would you describe Japanese culture in one word?
  • Kensuke : Okuyukashii (奥 ゆ か し い), meaning elegant, refined.
  • Tokusen : With the exception of soy sauce, what do you think are the three most important basic ingredients in Japanese cuisine?
  • Kensuke : Sake, tofu and natto.
  • Tokusen : Thank you very much for your time Kensuke-san. We wish you and Daikō Shōyu many more years of prosperity.

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