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If you are in Hita, you should definitely visit two important factories of the city. Harajirozaemon is a miso and soy sauce brewery and they even make Japanese lemonade (ramune), and the Motono-hakimono Factory makes traditional wooden shoes called Geta. It’s time to discover these Japanese crafts!
Miso, Soy Sauce and Ramune Factory in Hita
Established in 1899, located in Kuma district, which is located in the city center, this factory receives a worldwide reputation as one of the best manufactures of soy sauce. Some of the star chefs in Japan love its products for their large tables. They also create a special soy sauce made by Japanese river fish (ayu), which is very popular, too.
In addition to making soy sauce, Harajirozaemon also makes miso and Japanese lemonade called ramune.
They offer a factory tour if you like, so you can learn more about the creative process, the history and the products which they make.
After joining the various workshops, we were able to have a small tasting. There are many kinds of soy sauce and miso paste available to sample. What you should know is that in Japan shōyu (soy sauce) is normally used as the basis for seasoning. It is used for meat, fish, sushi, tofu, marinades, and broths. And for each meal, they use a different sauce!
Miso is often indissociable from soy sauce as it is also a fermented soybean paste. It is a strong protein ingredient, more or less salty, and is also the fundamental seasoning which is used in many dishes of Japanese cuisine: miso soup, ramen, udon …. The duration of fermentation varies the intensity of the taste.
To make soy sauce, there are four steps:
Soybeans are initially steamed, sometimes grilled and wheat is added, crushed, then salt and malt seeds are added. The malt mixture is called the kouji. It is placed in vats where it will ferment for 1.5 to 3 years. The craftsmen monitor and control the temperature for the entire fermentation process. Later, the mixture turns into a paste called moromi. Then, this dough is pressed to produce the soy sauce.
Ramune is a phonetic deformation of the English “Lemonade.” It is therefore a non-alcoholic soft drink sold in Japan. You might recognize the iconic design of the bottles: They are made of glass and are sealed by a ball of the same material. This ball blocks the opening of the bottle thanks to the pressure exerted by carbonated water. To open it, just remove the cap above the bottle and push the ball inside. As for flavors, they serve every flavor imaginable: lemon, peach, strawberry …. Ramune is a typical drink for Japanese festivals (matsuri), perfect to refresh in the middle of summer!
Kuma District at Hita
Kuma district is located in the heart of Hita. Since the Edo era, this district has developed a flourishing culture and commerce. These days, the Gion Festival and Hinamatsuri are held here. Let’s check out this historical and charming area, Kuma.
Geta Shop (Japanese Traditional Sandales) in Hita
The factory Motono-Hakimono produces traditional Japanese shoes called Geta. The production in the region began around 1830. Along with Shizuoka and Hiroshima, Hita is one of the three largest regions where the traditional method of making these shoes has been maintained. The geta always have a wooden sole, called “dai.” The “hanao” is the lanyard that allows us to carry the geta. They are generally cotton and the patterns may vary. Shoes may or may not have “ha” teeth that vary in number and height. If you buy a pair, know that it will be necessary to wear them in the Japanese style, with your heel protrudes slightly over the back edge.
I was able to visit the Geta factory. There you can learn the whole process of making geta. They start by cutting a piece of wood and planing it to fit the shape of the foot.
Then a machine comes to cut the area around the piece of wood to define the shape of the shoe. Right after this stage, they pierce the shoe where the hanao will go.
On certain models, they will paint the soles black.
Other craftsmen polish the sole.
Finally, they put on the hanao !
They will not organize a factory tour for tourists, however everyone can visit this small factory to see how Hita geta are made. The factory doesn’t have regular opening dates/hours, so whenever you want to visit the factory, please contact them by email (only in Japanese ) or ask us for help !
Translated by: Aika Ikeda