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Myoho Asari is on a lifetime’s mission to spread knowledge about koji, a key ingredient of Japanese cuisine. Myoho represents the ninth generation of Kojiya Honten, a family-owned business that was established in 1689. Ever since, koji, a sweet fragrant yeast that is essential to Japanese cooking, has been made on the same site using the same traditional method.
Koji is used to make miso, mirin sweet cooking sake, sake, shoyu soy sauce and osu vinegar, all the fermented staples of Japanese cuisine. It is also used as a seasoning for everyday cooking to boost umami, one of the five tastes that include sweet, salty, bitter and sour.
Myoho is an astute businesswoman, educator and passionate proselytiser on the flavour and health properties of koji, and is always ready to engage in a lively and informative fashion with audiences in Japan and around the world. She also mixes happily with visitors to her shop, a traditional building that has long been a landmark in Saiki’s old quarter. Myoho readily poses with visitors for photographs in front of it.
Within the premises are a wide range of koji-derived products that help make Japanese cuisine some of the best in the world. These include Kojiya Honten’s innovative and popular Kisuke Koji Power, salted koji that is easily kept and used in cooking. Myoho relates that koji’s health-giving properties include alleviation of high blood pressure, and weariness due to summer heat and humidity; promotion of weight loss, good skin and hair; improvement of the body’s immune system; and the maintenance of a health digestive tract.
It is over 330 years since Kojiya Honten began producing and purveying koji. As Moyho’s children work with her in the business, the 10th generation of Kojiya Honten seems secured. Hopefully, they will propel their culinary and culturally significant family business well on its way to a 400th anniversary and beyond.
At a glance
A long-established purveyor of an essential ingredient of Japanese cuisine.