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Miso, the Secret Weapon of the Samurai of Aichi

The samurai of Aichi Prefecture were among the most successful at war. Aichi was the center of the Sengoku, or Warring States Period, and under local heroes, the unifiers, Oda Nobunaga, Toyotomi Hideyoshi and Tokugawa Ieyasu, samurai from Aichi spread out across the nation.

Why were they so successful? What was their secret weapon? Ninja? Better armor? Guns? No, it was Miso!

Yep! Miso, in particular, Aka-miso, or red miso, and Hatcho Miso, produced in Aichi for over 400 years, a simple, lightweight, easy to carry, long lasting, easy to use provision that is high in protein, and rich in vitamins and minerals. They say an army marches on its stomach, and in this case it is very true. During the Sengoku Period, miso production was an important military and economic activity.

Miso, the Secret Weapon of the Samurai of Aichi

(A spoonful of miso….)

Miso was, and still is an important traditional nutritional Japanese culinary staple. Made from fermenting ground soybeans and salt, the resulting thick, red paste is used as a sauce and spread, in soups and for pickling vegetables and meats. Miso contains natural serotonin, said to be good for refreshing the brain, lessening stress and leaving you with a positive and relaxed feeling.

The last two traditional places making Hatcho Miso in the old fashioned way is Okazaki in Aichi Prefecture, birthplace of the Shogun, Tokugawa Ieyasu. Here, the two companies, Kakukyu Hatcho Miso and Maruya Hatcho Miso work side by side making the deep red Hatcho Miso. It’s called Hatcho miso because it was eight-cho, pronounced Hatcho, distance (about 850 meters) west from Okazaki Castle.

(Making miso in the traditional way)

Inside the heritage listed Kakukyu Hatcho Miso warehouses are these huge cedar barrels filled with fermenting miso. On top of the barrels are three-ton piles of carefully placed rocks holding the lid down tight. The rocks are placed in the same way that the stone walls of castles were built, and the men that do the work need to train for about 10-20 years before they can do it properly!

Miso, the Secret Weapon of the Samurai of Aichi

Miso, the Secret Weapon of the Samurai of Aichi

(Three tons of specially piled rocks atop the miso barrels)

The reason it’s done like that is because the miso needs to ferment for about two and a half years, and if there was an earthquake, the rocks would fall off the top, and the miso might be ruined. The rocks are so well set that they can withstand mild to strong quakes!

(Traditional miso production display )

See the rock piled barrels of miso on a fascinating tour of the traditional miso factory, and taste the real miso flavor in the tasting areas. You can see displays of traditional miso making, and follow the history of the food too.

Next post, I’ll tell you about some of the best miso based foods to try when you come to Aichi Prefecture!

Miso, the Secret Weapon of the Samurai of Aichi

Chris Glenn

Chris Glenn is a bilingual radio DJ, TV presenter, producer, narrator, MC, copywriter, author and columnist, and Japanese historian, specializing in samurai castles, battles, armor and weapons. He is an inbound tourism advisor, and is often called upon as a lecturer and speaker on Japanese history and topics. He was born in Adelaide, South Australia in 1968, and has spent over half his life in Japan, most of that time in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture. Chris is dedicated to promoting and preserving Japans’ long history, deep culture, traditions, arts and crafts.

Chris Glenn - Writer