100+ Years Old Businesses Series – Maruya Hatcho Miso with 600 River Stones

Miso (味噌) is a traditional Japanese seasoning produced by fermenting soybeans with salt and koji (the fungus Aspergillus oryzae) and sometimes rice, barley, or other ingredients. It's usually a yellow color thick paste that can be used for all kinds of cooking. Miso soup is a family meal item in an average Japanese household and a common restaurant menu item in Japanese restaurants. High in protein, vitamins and minerals, miso has played an important nutritional role since feudal Japan. Typically, miso is salty, but different ingredients and fermentation process and generate other sweet, earthy and fruity tastes.

(photo credit to Wikipedia, from left Kōjimiso, Akamiso, Awasemiso)

Maruya Hatcho Miso is the oldest existing Hatcho miso maker in Japan, since 1337. Situated in the heart of the Mikawa district of Aichi prefecture (approximately 60km east of Nagoya city), Hatcho miso draws its name from its proximity to the seat of power of Japan’s first Shogun, Ieyasu Tokugawa. His residence was the nearby Okazaki Castle, and “Hatcho” refers to the fact that the miso factory was 8 blocks from the castle (“ha” meaning 8, and “cho” meaning one city block).

Maruya Hatcho Miso maintained the high quality of miso manufacturing by declining to reduce the quantity of soy used during the Second World War time. They thrived since then as the best known miso provider in Japan.  This rigorous approach to the production of the highest quality makes Maruya Hatcho Miso stand out.

(photo credit to Maruya Hatcho Miso official website)

There are two basic types of miso in Japan. Shiromiso (“white miso”) is a light, less dense type of miso, commonly used in Kyoto cuisine and with lighter dishes throughout Japan. Akamiso (“mame- miso”) is only made from soy, and is most popular in central Japan. Frequently in the home blends are made by mixing shiro and aka miso for a unique flavor. Hatcho miso is a variety of aka miso renowned for its dense, rich flavor and relatively low salt content (5-12% salt compared with up to 18% for some varieties of rice based miso). Maruya Hatcho miso is also known as a tennen jozo (naturally fermented food). Mikawa region has long, humid summers, and relatively short, mild winters with rare snow. This suits the soybean perfectly, which has fewer carbohydrates than rice or barley.

With an ideal environment for soybean naturally, Maruya Hatcho miso also guarantees its product quality by following strictly traditional measures.  Around 6 tons of soybean mash is mixed into large wooden 100 years old vats, with pure sea salt and natural spring water. The vat is then sealed with a lid, and up to 4 tons of river stones on top. Typically around 600 pieces of stones are placed to compress the miso mix and squeeze out the excess water. Why not one big weight? Frequent earthquake strikes in the country make it difficult by using only one weight and a single weight cannot distribute pressure evenly across to create consistent miso.

680 years passed by, Maruya Hatcho Miso is still focusing on the best quality of its products, not only to customers in Japan but people all over the world. Does that include you?

(photo credit to Maruya Hatcho Miso's official website)
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