Sunday, 29 March 2015

Soy Sauce 3

As the Samurai gained power and influence, miso and tamari culture flowed. Prominent soy sauce painters emerged, creating works of exquisite art on the sliding doors of great shrines. The finest shoyu became known as murasaki ‘Deep Purple’, and used with raw fish sashimi.  

        ‘Smell the aroma from the depths of the brewing keg! 
         Waves of fragrance, deep purple, tamari; Flowers of wisteria.
         Its origins reaching back… Its brewing lineage inherited from the 
         great teacher… in the emperor's kingdom. 
         Its aroma is of the finest quality. Its flavor most excellent, 
         Its fame, the noblest and purest flower…’

In the chaos of the Warring States era, samurai Lord Takeda Shingen’s use of soy sauce as a seasoning for his army's food advanced its popularity. But with the end of hostilities and the quarter millennium of peace that came with Tokugawa Ieyasu’s victory, the power of both the samurai and soy sauce art were diluted. The warriors became bureaucrats, the paintings became coloured ukiyo-e woodblock prints, and the shoyu became a simple but unique condiment for the Japanese. There were no others. 
After WWII, there was even less sauce. Artists shunned soy sauce art as an authoritarian remnant of former times. An American armed forces official named Miss Appleton was placed in charge of reviving Japan’s shoyu industry. In 1945 she issued an order instructing all eight thousand manufacturers to produce only quick chemical soy sauce, or forgo their quota of soybeans. In the salty and sweet and sour and bitter and umami world of the American occupation of Japanese culture, it was their soy sauce, or no sauce.
Before contact with the West, the Japanese had no national identity. Nihonjiron developed in response to the need to explain themselves to foreigners, and foreigners themselves began their visions of the uniqueness of Japan. The Japanese viewed themselves as a unique isolate race that had genetically evolved on island cut off from the promiscuous cross-currents and endless tribal miscegenation of continental history. And the belief that such purity should never be defiled.

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