Yamamo / Takamo & Corp.
Business operator: TAKAMO & Corp.
Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewing Company
Project manager: Takuto Motomura
Iwasaki in Yuzawa-shi, Akita Prefecture, once thrived as a castle and lodging town. It was during the confusion at the end of the Edo Period (1603–1868) that Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewing Company started making miso (fermented soybean paste) using the crystal clear water of the Minase River.
Now, Yasushi Takahashi, the seventh-generation president of the company, has begun organizing factory tours. The purpose of the tours is to share with Japan and the world the cellar and fermentation process, which have been in existence for more than 150 years, as well as the history and culture of the local town of Iwasaki. The tours also incorporate an essence of art based on the experiences of Takahashi himself.
During the tour, visitors not only make their way round the miso-producing facility and cellar but also get to enjoy a Japanese garden that draws inspiration from the legend of a dragon god passed down in Iwasaki since the Muromachi Period (1336–1573). The tours also include a visit to the art gallery featuring the past and future as well as the café. The concept behind the art gallery is “Industry Loves Art” and a number of unique ways have been devised to fuse the two ideas together. As an example, used writing paper employed by Yoshihiko Takahashi, the sixth-generation president of the company who is also a calligrapher, was recycled by Japanese paper (washi) artists at the Minase River and employed on the floor of the art gallery.
The integration of industry and art serves to attract creators who are active on the global stage. Further, Yamamo aims to help with the branding of the Iwasaki area and play a part in telling the world about what goes on in the region.
Impressive cellar with large barrels containing unrefined miso
The tour kicks off with a look at the cellar housing barrels of unrefined miso. The barrels are placed in the northernmost section of the facility to facilitate low-temperature fermentation and maturation. Around 6,000 liters of miso are contained in lines of cedar barrels for the fermentation and maturation process. The older barrels date back around 100 years. The inside of the cellar is filled with the distinctive aroma of the yeast particular to the cellar. Visitors can also view the master craftsmen at work.
Preparation room and a new kind of yeast
This distinctive room is used to prepare the miso using underground water from Mt. Kurikoma. The room is also used to make experimental miso, which incorporates not only standard yeast but also a new kind of yeast. On the tour, visitors are introduced to the cellar housing unrefined miso as well as the miso preparation room. They also have the chance to smell the difference with the two barrels of test miso made each year and get a close-up look at the yeast at work. Even though the market demands the same taste year after year, the seventh-generation president of Yamamo also emphasizes the importance of discovering new kinds of yeast.
Gallery as a new communication space
An art gallery is located on the second floor of the premises. It uses art as a new way of conveying the appeal of the premises. It also serves as a communication space that resonates with creators active around the world. The gallery is currently showcasing artist Tetsuya Takizawa’s works depicting microscopic photographs on washi paper of the seed malt bacteria used to kick-start the fermentation process for the miso made by Yamamo. The washi used here has been re-crafted at the Minase River from calligraphy paper used by Takahashi’s father, the calligrapher Yoshihiko Takahashi.
Experience the taste of miso and soy sauce at the café
In addition to making and selling miso and soy sauce, Yamamo has opened a café on the premises. At the end of the tour, participants can enjoy such delights as pho noodles, a gelato or a coffee while looking out over the garden created by the fourth-generation president. Yamamo’s miso and soy sauce are used as an accompaniment to the menu as a clever way to get foreign visitors accustomed to Japanese condiments.
Yasushi Takahashi is the seventh-generation president of Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewing Company. He is concurrently serving as managing director of TAKAMO & Corp., the owner of the brand. He took over the family business after studying architectural engineering at university. Making the most of knowledge gained overseas, he incorporates the culture of architecture, art and fashion into the running of the miso and soy sauce maker while working to revitalize the traditional industry and the region.
Yasushi Takahashi, the seventh-generation president, now carries on the business that has been going for more than 150 years, infusing a new style into the miso and soy sauce maker. He took over the family business around 12 years ago and has been endeavoring to integrate industry and art since 2015 in order to share knowledge of the miso and soy sauce brewing industry from a new perspective.
He wanted to infuse art works, which constitute a new form of expression, with the spirit of Mosuke Takahashi, the company’s founder who began miso production in the region.
He has also joined forces with next-generation leaders who carry on the industry in other regions to embark on a mission to revitalize the local town. “Upon learning what my ancestors have passed down, I am incredibly grateful to them for keeping the light burning,” says Takahashi. “A foray into the uncharted territory of the foreign market represents the ‘rebirth’ of the new Yamamo. I also hope to make a contribution to the local town and society by introducing to the world the Iwasaki region from a new perspective.” He is reigniting the intentions of his ancestors to reform the region while putting a modern spin on it.
Product packaging has been given an all-new innovative design by Takahashi ahead of a foray into the overseas market. The materials used have exceptional thermal insulation properties and top-quality sealing, thus enabling the products to withstand international transportation (photo at left). Works by the sixth-generation president and the calligrapher Yoshihiko Takahashi are on display at the Garden Café (photo at right), helping to convey the power of art in industry and bridging the gap between the past and the present.
Yuzawa-shi is the gateway to Akita Prefecture in the south that once flourished as a castle town. It is well-known for producing popular varieties of rice such as Akita Komachi in addition to having beautiful water of the Minase River. Rice and water, integral to miso production, form the backbone of Yamamo.
TAKAMO & Corp. / Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewing Company
Yamamo Miso and Soy Sauce Brewing Company was established in 1867. Mosuke Takahashi, the founder, started a production business mainly for flavorings, helping to set up the brewing industry using the abundant water resources of Iwasaki. In addition to continuing to produce the traditional flavors, in 2017 Yamamo started tours of its facilities with a view to entering the overseas market. It now shares the intricacies of its business to the world.
124 Iwasaki, Yuzawa-shi, Akita