Monday, May 20, 2013

Kagehashi Japan (Day 3)

Waseda University | Kikkoman Factory | Chiba Downtown

In the morning, we went to a conference at Waseda University that confront the problem of decreased number of Japanese exchange students in the US. Some of the takeaway points were that initiatives need to be made in both countries to promote foreign languages, especially English in Japan. Although Japan is a very advanced country and English is an obligatory language, many of its residents don't know English. I believe if English was more heavily emphasized in Japanese schools, then the interest in western societies will rise as a result. There is also the problem of the two countries having different school schedules. It's summer in America, but Japanese students are still early in their academic year.

After the conference, we rushed to the city of Noda where we toured the Kikkoman soy sauce factory.

When I first found out we would be touring a soy sauce factory, I was a little disappointed because: 1. It's soy sauce, an everyday object for me, 2. I expected the factory to be some rinkydink metal building.

However, I was pleasantly surprised by the accommodations and tour of the Kikkoman factory. It was super modern, clean and they made learning about the soy sauce making process very entertaining.

It's beautiful...

I never would have guessed that I would learn so much about soy sauce in one day. It's principle ingredients are steamed soy beans, crushed wheat, salt and a fungus called Aspergilis. Soybeans and wheat are mixed together with the fungus and left in a room for 3 days. It then changes to a concoction known as Koji. After the 3 days, the Koji is mixed with salt water and turned into Moromi, a paste that smells like miso. Moromi is left to ferment for 6 months, at which time, it reaches a dark mature state. The Moromi is then put into nylon sheets and pressed by heavy machines. The liquid that comes out is raw soy sauce which needs to be pasteurized before its placed into bottles for consumption.

I believe this is where the Moromi or soy sauce is kept. There's enough material in these containers to provide soy sauce to 17000 people.

This room was where the moromi was pressed until the soy sauce has completely dripped out. The residue that's left over, a cake like tablet, is then fed to livestock.

After a tour of the factory, we then got to make our own soy sauce. A nice lady led the group and showed us a small version of what goes on in the factory.

That's me squeezing out soy sauce.

We later got to try our own invention on rice crackers!

One of my favorite parts of the trip was trying soy sauce ice cream. It's surprisingly delicious and tastes like salted caramel. I'm going to try making my own back in the States.

Too cute! There were little kids around too!

Before leaving for Japan, my parents told me specifically not to buy soy sauce as a souvenir when I visited the factory. Guess what I'm bringing back?

Sorry for the blurry image! This is our fancy schmancy hotel in Chiba with spacious rooms and a Japanese style open-air bath. I struggled for the first day of having to bathe completely in the nude among all the other girls, but I've then gotten used to it.

At night, we went to downtown Chiba where I had delicious crepes as a late night snack! They had so many different varieties and I practiced ordering food in Japanese.

A green tea, red bean, vanilla ice cream crepe.

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