Japanese ingredients for your healthy life

What is Shoyu?

Variations on a theme

One of the most typical Japanese condiments is eShoyuf (soy sauce). Shoyu refers to a brownish-black condiment which is a koji (malt) made from soybeans and wheat, and the koji (malt) has been made from fermenting and maturing salt water. It is an indispensable seasoning for Japanese cooking, and by using Shoyu, depth and profoundness of taste is added There are five different types of Shoyu including eKoi kuchi (strong taste)f and eUsu kuchi (weak taste)f.


Types of Shoyu:

  • Koi kuchi Shoyu
  • Usu kuchi Shoyu
  • Tamari Shoyu
  • Sai Shikomi Shoyu
  • Shiro Shoyu


Typical types of Shoyu which you would generally come across in supermarkets are the two types of Shoyu: eKoi kuchif and eUsu kuchif. There is also eSashimi Shoyuf which is slightly different. This type of Shoyu is used when eating sashimi (raw fish fillets), and the flavour is smoother and rounder. I will elaborate on the five different types of Shoyu.


Koi kuchi Shoyu
This is the most typical type of eShoyuf. This type of Shoyu was developed mainly in the Kanto area, and it is now produced nationwide. It makes up about 80 percent of the production of Shoyu. The raw materials are soybeans, 50% wheat, and salt. Salt content is 16-18%.
This type of Shoyu tastes great as a dipping sauce, flavouring sauce, sauce to make stew with, and as a sauce to blend with other sauces.


Usu kuchi Shoyu
It was originally produced in the Tatsuno district in Hyogo prefecture, but is now produced nationwide. It makes up about 15 percent of the Shoyu production. The raw materials used are the same as eKoi kuchi Shoyuf. In order to lighten the colour, the salinity has been strengthened, and techniques such as suppressing the fermentation process and lowering the heating temperature compared to when making eKoi kuchi Shoyuf have been used. In addition, it has been sweetened in the end by using an ingredient such as sweet wine. It is not as aromatic, and the salinity level is approximately 10 points higher (about 19 percent) than that of the eKoi kuchi Shoyuf. This is a Shoyu that is indispensable in Kansai cuisine. It is used in a type of cooking where the natural flavours of vegetables and white flesh fish need to be enhanced.


Tamari Shoyu
This is a type of Shoyu that is produced mainly in Tokai district, namely Aichi, Mie, and Gifu prefectures. It makes up about 1.8 percent of the Shoyu production. The raw materials used are mainly soy beans, and a very small amount of wheat is added. The colour is thick; it has a rich and strong flavour. It is used in foods such as tsukudani (food boiled down in the strong flavour of soy sauce) and rice crackers. It is also often used as a dipping sauce for sashimi (raw fish fillets), etc.


Sai Shikomi Shoyu
This is a Shoyu that originated in the Yanai district in the Yamaguchi prefecture, but has been predominantly produced in Kyushu to Sanin district in recent times. It makes up about 0.7 percent of the Shoyu production. The raw materials used are the same as those to make eKoi kuchi Shoyuf. Instead of salt water, raw soy sauce which has not been heated is used to make this type of Shoyu. Sai Shikomi Shoyu has a stronger scent than Tamari Shoyu. The colour and the flavour are thick and rich, and it is also called eKanro Shoyuf (sweet soy sauce). It is used to make Kanro-ni (dishes boiled in sweet syrup) and as a dipping sauce for sashimi and sushi.


Shiro Shoyu
This Shoyu is transparent and amber-coloured (the colour of this Shoyu is even lighter than that of the eUsu kuchi Shoyuf). This type of Shoyu is produced mainly in Aichi prefecture. It is also made around Chiba prefecture. It makes up approximately 0.6 percent of the Shoyu production. The raw materials used are mainly wheat and a small amount of soy beans. The amount of fermentation time is short. Its plain taste and the pronounced aroma are the unique characteristics of this type of Shoyu. Another unique attribute is that it has high sugar content because the main ingredient is wheat. It is used to make soups, noodle soups, and hot pots. It is also suited for cuisines that require enhancing the original colours and the flavours of the ingredients, i.e. vegetables and fish dishes.

A handy condiment

Shoyu, or soy sauce in English is truly an indispensable food in the Japanese kitchen and indeed many kitchens around the world now. There are many uses for shoyu and the various forms one can find. Koi kuchi shoyu, which is the most popular and widely sold oy sauce is often used as an easy and healthy marinade in Japanese cooking. One idea is to cut up some chicken thighs, pour in some honey, shoyu and brown sugar then mix together and leave in the fridge for 24 hours. This is then fried to create a delightful dish that is bound to win the family over. Indeed, shoyu can be mixed with a number of ingredients to make an excellent marinade. Shoyu isnft just restricted to marinades however. Shoyu is often added into regular dishes also. Fried rice, that generally consists of rice and combinations of vegetables, meats, seafood usually has a few tablespoons of shoyu added to it for taste. Shoyu adds that perfect amount of salty flavour to liven the meal up. Of course, pouring in too much shoyu can saturate a meal with salt and is not recommended.



Shoyu is a very important food for Japanese cooking and is indeed at the heart of Japanese cuisine. There are five types of shoyu that can be bought, with each variation differing in strength, colour and use. Itfs so very useful so if you havenft got a bottle of shoyu in your kitchen, get one today.