I'm not sure this kind of post makes much sense to readers over at Treehugger. Is it relevant? What do you think? When I talk about "traditional brewing" I mean keeping the soybeans and the koji in cedar casks for up to four years. That takes patience.
Kōji, or kōji-kin (麹菌) the microoorganism, is also used here to make sake and miso. Not easy to explain to people who are used to considering food more as entertainment...
When I see the large variety of soy sauces in my local supermarket, I'm both bewildered and delighted. Being able to read kanji characters is a must: if I want a soy sauce that contains a 100% naturally fermented product, I select the Honjōzō hōshiki variety, while the Shinshiki hōshiki contains only 30-50% naturally fermented product. Oh well. Then there are the Tokkyū (Special quality, not pasteurized) and Tokusen (Premium quality, usually implies limited quantity) grades, and several others for the locally produced, more rare stuff that is seldom available in supermarkets. Regional differences are also common, for example in Osaka, where people like a less dark soy sauce with their sashimi. It contains more wheat than soy, hence the lighter colour.
Dr. Eiji Ichishima of Tohoku University called the kōji fungus a "national fungus" ("kokkin") in the journal of the Brewing Society of Japan, due to its importance not only for sake brewing but also for making miso, soy sauce and a range of other traditional Japanese foods. His proposal was approved at the society's annual meeting in 2006. Such a precious microorganism has been used very carefully here to create delicious foods for millenia.
Read more over at The Tokyo Foundation