Yuasa is the birthplace of Shoyu or soy sauce in Japan. Walking through its small streets is easy to imagine how the now quiet and well preserved town was when it was extremely busy exporting its product. Although the community still makes Shoyu in the same traditional way, they continue to lose influence over industrial produced soy sauce. A visit to this village will take you back in time to a tradition full of flavour.
As you start walking, observe the people on the streets. They don’t receive that many foreign tourists, so they are always a bit curious, extremely friendly and joyful. They smile at you and even not understanding Japanese you feel warmly welcomed. Specially children will take a closer look at you. As soon as you smile, a bit ashamed, they will smile back.
Head towards the Preservation District of Traditional Buildings, a small area where houses and buildings are still preserved as if time hadn’t passed by. Get lost between its komichi streets and immerse yourself into the past.
There are many places to stop and take time to enjoy its history and even taste a bit of it. Otakyusuke-ginsei, a miso factory, was built in the late Edo period. Kinzanji-miso (koji of rice, barley, and soy beans mixed with chopped vegetables) is still produced and sold here. Although it’s delicious, ask for a taste of it first; it’s highly flavoured.
Kadocho is one of the oldest soy sauce factories. It continues to use the same containers it always has to brew soy sauce since it was established in 1841. Across the street a shokunin-kura (worker’s lodge) built in 1866 now exhibits the original tools used for Shoyu brewing. You can buy some of this traditionally produced soy sauce at the shop.
Jin-buro is a public bath from the Edo period which was open until 1985. It has been restored and is a now a museum showing life in old-time Yuasa. Free entry.
As you walk around the historic building, stop at one of the various beautiful temples of the neighbourhood. Jinsenji Temple is particularly old and delicate. The main gate, guest hall, and drawing room are designated cultural properties of Wakayama’s Prefecture.
When you are ready to have lunch, make sure to try Shirasu-don, a popular and local recipe. It’s listed as one of Wakayama’s 30 best local gourmet food. It consists of Shirasu (whitebait) on top of rice. A true delicacy.
Yuasa will make a perfect half day trip from Wakayama City. Most of the places are open until 4 pm so its better to visit in the morning.