The Difference Between Shoyu and Tamari

In the west, the words "Shoyu" and "Tamari" are often used interchangeably. In Japan, "Shoyu" is the Japanese name for soy sauce which is made from a mash of soybeans and wheat, while "Tamari" is a non-wheat product made by drawing off the liquid content of soybean miso. Aichi Prefecture, in the central western part of Japan, is the area most famous for Tamari production. During the Edo period (1590-1868), Ieyasu Tokugawa, the first Shogun, fed the carpenters, who were building the Nagoya castle, miso soup every day to give them the strength needed for their hard work. Since that time, Aichi Prefecture has become known for its en influenced the most by soybean miso culture.

Tamari was first produced as a by-product of the soybean miso. People who were making soybean miso discovered the value of the raw liquid drawn off from the cedar kegs during the fermentation process. Since then, Tamari itself has become a popular soy sauce product. The actual translation of tamari is "puddle," so called by the way it would pool on top of the miso.

Since genuine Tamari is a non-wheat product, it has a distinctive aroma as well as thicker texture, deeper color, and stronger taste. It is often used for dipping raw fish (sashimi), sauteing teriyaki, and other food processing, while Shoyu is used as an all-purpose cooking soy sauce. There are only certain areas that produce Tamari is produced, whereas Shoyu is much more widely available. Because of its distinctive characteristics, Tamari's popularity overseas is just as widely recognized as Shoyu.

George Ohsawa, the Founder of Macrobiotics, first introduced natural Shoyu to the western world. To distinguish the naturally produced Shoyu from the inferior commercially produced Shoyu, he called this Shoyu, Tamari. As a result, particularly in the natural food industry, many people still called this Shoyu, Tamari. This has caused confusion amongst consumers as to the differences between Shoyu and Tamari. As genuine Tamari gains in popularity, the tamari manufacturers have been making an effort in correcting this misconception.

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