Classic Miso Compares to the Zen Concept of ‘Circle’
Masafumi’s town Naruto faces the famous tidal whirlpools of the Naruto Strait. This land was originally blessed with abundant food such as quality salt, seaweed and rice. He is the third of four boys at his family. It was 20 years before he inherited the family business from his father. At university, he majored in product design and after graduation he studied design in Mongolia. His academic background had nothing to do with miso production or even food.
When he was pursuing his career as a designer, a significant change happened. His brother, who was supposed to inherit the family business, passed away. Then one day Masafumi came home from Mongolia to find that his father had fallen ill and was unable to work. It naturally fell to Masafumi to take over his family business. At the same time, he had also developed a new appreciation of the traditional condiment after tasting delicious miso soup in Mongolia. Fate reached out for him, and he was ready.
“For the first three years after I took my father‘s job, I recorded and monitored everything I did. I wanted to make the exact same miso that had been handed down for generations since 1875. However, following the classic manufacturing method, nurturing koji rice malt with wooden cartons called ‘morobuta’ and brewing miso naturally in wooden barrels, was too complicated and tricky,” said Masafumi. “As a result, it took me 10 years to be able to make miso in a truly traditional way. Now I can leave everything to the great universe after doing all I could do.”
From then on, he approached miso production with confidence. No longer relying on numbers, he trusted his intuition by using his eyes, hands and nose. “It’s been more than 20 years since I started making miso, but there are still so many unknowns. When I make miso, I talk to the koji rice malt. It’s like raising a child. I’m learning a lot from miso production every day,” he said.
Another feature of Masafumi’s miso is that it’s brewed naturally in wooden barrels. Since this process and maintenance require a lot of time and labor, mass production is not an option.