History of Soy Sauce

People around the world today appreciate and enjoy soy sauce.
Let us take a look at the history of this versatile seasoning—and an even closer look at Kikkoman Soy Sauce.

In both the East and West, people for centuries have sought better ways to preserve food, discovering through experience that the use of salt not only preserves but also improves flavor. This is because microorganisms break down the proteins contained in food into taste-enhancing umami components.

In ancient China, preserved foods and their seasonings were known as jiang—perhaps the forerunner to what we now know as soy sauce. Meat, seafood, vegetables and grain were used to produce different types of jiang. Of these ingredients, grain was the most easily available and manageable, and so the jiang made from soybeans and wheat in particular developed more rapidly. The process of making this “grain jiang” eventually spread from China into Japan and other neighboring countries. Today’s soy sauce is said to have originated from this seasoning.

After its introduction into Japan, the development and processing of jiang took a distinctive turn; by the middle of the seventeenth century, the process of producing naturally brewed soy sauce using the traditional Japanese brewing process had been established here, and began to spread throughout the country.

During the hundred years from the mid-seventeenth century to the mid-eighteenth century, soy sauce production led by the Mogi and Takanashi families prospered in the city of Noda, located in Chiba Prefecture. This is where Kikkoman was born.

Noda is located in the Kanto plain, once one of the largest production centers for soybeans and wheat in Japan. It was easy to secure the necessary workforce in this region, owing to its growing population following the establishment of nearby Edo (today’s Tokyo) as the capital of Japan. Besides its geographic advantages, boat transport had developed in Noda, which was blessed with two major waterways: the Tone and Edo rivers. The transportation of ingredients was thus facilitated, while manufactured products could be delivered to Edo for mass consumption.


Based on historical documents, nineteen soy sauce brewers organized an association in Noda to ship soy sauce mainly to Edo. By the mid-nineteenth century, Noda had become the largest soy sauce producer in the Kanto region.


In 1917, the Mogi, Takanashi and Horikiri families merged their businesses to form Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd. Then in 1964, Noda Shoyu Co., Ltd. changed its corporate name to Kikkoman Shoyu Co., Ltd. This trade name was altered in 1980 to the company’s current name: Kikkoman Corporation.

Global Expansion of Kikkoman Soy Sauce

In the mid-seventeenth century, traders had begun overseas exports of Japanese soy sauce, and exports of Kikkoman Soy Sauce started in the mid-nineteenth century; it was only after the Second World War, however, that Kikkoman’s business abroad expanded significantly.


Following the war, Kikkoman saw great potential in overseas expansion upon seeing how occupation forces, journalists and other foreigners residing in Japan were becoming familiar with Japanese cuisine and its use of soy sauce.


In 1957, Kikkoman opened its first overseas sales base in San Francisco. To meet steadily increasing demand, Kikkoman then built its first overseas production plant in the United States in 1972. Following its success in the U.S. market, Kikkoman began to establish production and sales networks throughout the world. Today, Kikkoman has three soy sauce production plants in Japan and seven abroad, and sells in markets worldwide.
Kikkoman’s goal is to make Kikkoman Soy Sauce a truly global seasoning.