5 Reasons You Must Visit Japan’s Spiritual Heartland
Find out what secrets Wakayama holds and why you need to visit.
Soy sauce, or shoyu in Japanese, is an indispensable part of the country’s cuisine, and Yuasa—a quaint town located in Wakayama’s Arida District—serves as the birthplace of this beloved condiment.
As you stroll through the town’s small, well preserved streets, it is easy to imagine what the area was like in its soy sauce-producing heyday. However, these roots are not completely lost to the past, as the community still produces soy sauce to this day! Visit this historical village and immerse yourself in a tradition full of flavor.
Thanks to its close proximity to Wakayama City, Yuasa makes for a perfect half-day trip from the city. We recommend visiting in the morning since most of the places close by 4pm.
Yuasa’s historical center, the Yuasa Preservation District for Groups of Traditional Buildings, is about a 10-minute walk from JR Yuasa Station and is home to a number of houses and buildings that embody the atmosphere of the Edo (1603-1868) and Meiji (1868-1912) Periods. Here, you can leisurely admire history and even taste it! Be sure to stay observant when you visit, since many buildings have exhibition cases attached to their facades that display historic items.
A visit to Yuasa would be incomplete without a stop at the Soy Sauce Museum. This museum produces a limited amount of soy sauce each year and offers tours that provide insight into the brewing process. The product itself—due to its limited nature—is said to be one of the tastiest and highest quality soy sauces on the market. After the tour, stop by the facility’s gift shop for all your soy sauce souvenir needs, and visit its cafe for its renowned soy sauce ice cream—the perfect balance of sweet to salty.
Aside from the Soy Sauce Museum, the area also features a number of remarkable buildings that preserve its tasty heritage.
Otakyusuke-ginsei, a former brewer, was established in the late Edo Period and today is active as a miso factory. This facility produces and sells kinzanji-miso, a type of miso flavored with rice, barley, and soy beans mixed with fermented vegetables. The unique product is intended for eating rather than as a cooking ingredient. Be sure to ask for a sample!
Located nearby Otakyusuke-ginsei, Kadocho is one of the country’s oldest soy sauce factories and is designated as the Town Cultural Property. The facility continues to brew soy sauce in the traditional way and even uses the same containers since its establishment in 1841. Across the street, the Shokunin-gura Museum, originally a worker’s lodge built in 1866, exhibits tools and equipment used for brewing soy sauce. Here, you can also buy some of the brewery’s traditionally produced soy sauce.
For a look into the area’s non-manufacturing past, check out Jin-buro, a public bath from the Edo Period. The facility was in operation until 1985, but has since been restored and now serves as a museum showcasing Yuasa’s past. Admission is free.
Jinsenji, located just outside the Yuasa Preservation Districts for Groups of Traditional Buildings, is a particularly old and beautiful temple. The complex’s main gate, guest hall, and drawing room are all designated cultural properties of Wakayama’s Prefecture, so it is definitely worth a visit.
When you are ready to have lunch, make sure to try shirasu-don, a popular and local recipe that is listed as one of Wakayama’s 30 best local gourmet foods. The dish consists of shirasu (whitebait) over rice. The dish is a true delicacy.
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