JOURNAL / JAPAN etc.(English)

JAPAN [Fukuoka]
Japanese Ingredients for the World’s Top Kitchens #18


Naturally Fermented without Shortcuts


text by Michiko Watanabe / photographs by Sakura Takeuchi / English text by Susan Rogers Chikuba

Though the times are always changing, there are certain timeless ingredients from Japan that will never go out of style. Yukio Hattori, president of Hattori Nutrition College in Tokyo, introduces unique labors of love—items grown and produced with care and integrity by hardworking suppliers across the country.


This month we spoke with Kazukiyo Takahashi, the 14th in a long line of brewers of organic brown-rice vinegar. Shoubunsu Co., Ltd.in Fukuoka prefecture has been making its product the all-natural way for more than 300 years. “We started out making sake,” he says, “but shifted to vinegar in 1711.” The firm’s latest offering, a seasonal line of fruit-based vinegars, can be found at its boutique at Ginza Six in Tokyo.

The plant and its tools are kept sparkling clean so that friendly bacteria strains in the pillars, beams, floor, and casks can work their fermentation magic without contamination. 

The wooden casks are insulated with straw mats (multiple layers in the colder months) to aid the process. 

(photo left) Lids are propped open for sufficient oxygen. 
(photo right) A surface film emerges as acetification proceeds. As it grows thicker it sinks to the bottom of the cask.

Brown-rice vinegar is brewed twice annually, in spring and fall. The ingredients are simple: organic brown rice, Acetobacter aceti, water, and time. The wooden casks are partially buried in the ground. “The lower half remains a steady 10ºC, an optimal temperature for alcoholic fermentation,”Takahashi explains.“The upper half, exposed to sunlight, warms up to about 40ºC, which is just right for acetic acid fermentation.”

This 260-year-old structure is part of the Shoubun plant, restaurant, and shop complex. 

“New ideas for our vinegars are always bubbling up,” says Kazukiyo Takahashi.

◎Shoubunsu Co., Ltd.
548 Enokizu, Okawa-shi, Fukuoka

(The Cuisine Magazine /November 2018)