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2022.02 Enjoying the Hidden Flavors of Tradition: Tatsuno Soy Sauce and Ako Salt [PR]

Tatsuno and Ako are two cities in western Kansai famous as quaint castle towns that flourished during the Edo period (1603–1867). Surrounded by the Seto Inland Sea and lush green mountains, they are important locations for the production of two of Japan’s key ingredients: soy sauce and salt. A visit offers the opportunity to trace back the roots of both soy sauce and salt production, and visit historical sites and landmarks that are important to the area.


Tatsuno: a historic castle town that birthed Edo period soy sauce


Tatsuno flourished as a castle town, with Tatsuno Castle at its center. The Ibo River flows through the quaint, compact town, which has a traditional atmosphere. The castle retains the original stone walls from the time of its construction, and the merchant houses, samurai residences, and white-walled storehouses have also been preserved through the years. The Tatsuno City Museum of History and Culture showcases the town’s history, with exhibitions about the brewing of soy sauce, as well as traditional earthenware, pottery, weaponry, and armor.  


Feel Tatsuno’s history as you walk along the white-wall-lined streets.


The Tatsuno area is known as the birthplace of light soy sauce, which was invented in the Edo period. Light soy sauce has traditionally been used as a secret ingredient in the colorful cuisine of Kyoto. At the Usukuchi Tatsuno Soy Sauce Museum, countless soy sauce brewing tools and related materials are on display, allowing you to learn about the roots of soy sauce production.


Large wooden tubs displayed in the recreated Shikomi-gura (“preparation room”) at the Usukuchi Tatsuno Soy Sauce Museum


Light soy sauce is characterized by its mild flavor and enticing aroma (this image is for illustration purposes only).


Get hands-on with Tatsuno’s soy-sauce-making heritage


Tatsuno is home to the Taisho Roman Kan Shoyu no Sato (previously the offices of the Tatsuno Soy Sauce Cooperative), a beloved landmark that has survived since the Taisho era (1912–1926). The facility is an important historical relic that details the development of Tatsuno’s soy sauce industry and offers workshops where you can make your own soy sauce. It is also the venue for the annual Tatsuno Art Scene event every autumn, where you can enjoy contemporary art and film while surrounded by the vestiges of a bygone era. The main event space is the brewery building which was constructed in 1869.


The Taisho Roman Kan Shoyu no Sato is a beloved landmark of the Tatsuno area.


Tatsuno's famous soy sauce is used in a variety of local dishes and sweets. There is soy sauce manju (buns) and soy sauce yokan (jellied dessert), which let you have a taste of tradition that dates to the Edo period. Ibonoito somen (white noodles) are a popular traditional Japanese food served with light soy sauce for dipping that is typically eaten in summer. For a taste of luxury, sample the more aromatic smoked soy sauce.


Experience Ako’s traditional salt-making process


One of the key ingredients for Tatsuno soy sauce is salt produced in Ako. Since the Edo period, Ako salt has been a leading brand in Japan. Traditionally two types of salt were produced. Sashio was produced on the eastern salt flats for sale in the eastern Kanto region, and mashio, a higher-quality salt, was produced on the western flats for the Kansai region, where more tastes favor more subtle flavors. Ako’s salt industry has earned Japan Heritage status as Banshū (an old name for the  southwest area of Hyogo Prefecture) Ako, the “pioneer region of fine salt in Japan.” 


Ako salt was made from seawater.


At the Ako Marine Science Museum, you can see salt fields from throughout Japanese history, such as the Irihama Salt fields, which utilized a cutting-edge systematic salt production method in the early Edo period. Visitors can also get a deeper understanding of the process by making their own salt. The experience is free of charge, but admission to the museum is required.


Salt-making experience


Restored salt fields at the Ako Marine Science Museum


Experience samurai history in Ako


Besides its prominence for salt production, Ako is best known for the historical story “Chushingura,” the Edo-period tale of 47 loyal retainers who sought revenge for the death of their lord. The Ako Castle Ruins give visitors a glimpse into the bygone era of the samurai, while the Ako City Museum of History lets you learn more about the castle, the loyal Ako samurai immortalized in “Chushingura,” and the tools and history of salt-making. 


The moats, gates, and base of the keep are all that remain of Ako Castle.


Once you’ve experienced the samurai history of Ako, head south to Ako Misaki, a peninsula with a hot spring area overlooking the Seto Inland Sea. After admiring the gorgeous sea views from Iwatsuhime Shrine (which is dedicated to marriage), go for a stroll along the Misaki Coastal Trail. Be sure to try Ako’s famous shiomi manju (salty buns), and pick up some matcha salt, a seasoning that brings out the subtle flavors of Japanese cuisine. 


A spectacular sunset over the Seto Inland Sea on the coast of Misaki


The light flavor of Shiomi Manju (salty buns) is unique to Japanese confectionery.


Getting to Tatsuno and Ako


You can access Tatsuno and Ako, from Himeji Station. It takes about 3 hours and 10 minutes from Tokyo Station, about 45 minutes from Kyoto Station, and about 30 minutes from Shin-Osaka Station via the JR Tokaido-Sanyo Shinkansen. From Himeji Station, it takes about 20 minutes to Hon-Tatsuno Station on the JR Kishin Line, and about 30 minutes to Banshu-Ako Station on the JR Sanyo Line. There are many ways to get around Tatsuno City and Ako City, such as walking or cycling, or taxis and buses. 


Related Links


Another Hyogo


Hyogo Tourism


Hyogo: The Heart of Japan



WEB:https://www.instagram.com/hyogonavi_official/ (Japanese)

Ako Tourism Association


Ako city’s Salt



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