The decision incensed netizens around the country, with 2chan’s founder even getting involved.

Anyone familiar with Japanese cuisine will know about miso, the Japanese seasoning made from fermented paste. Miso is a key ingredient in Japanese cooking, used most famously in miso soup, but can also be eaten as is. There are several varieties of miso, each made with different specific ingredients, but there is one component that usually links all of them: fermented soybeans. 

▼ These bad boys.

Knowing this, some people might come to the conclusion that miso isn’t miso unless it contains soybeans of some sort. The Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries are of the same opinion, and defined miso as “a product obtained by steaming soybeans, or soybeans and grains such as rice and wheat, that are steamed and cultured with koji bacteria.”

On the other hand, one company who doesn’t share this school of thought are Ii Shoten, a miso manufacturer from Ehime Prefecture’s Uwajima City. Since 1958, Ii Shoten has been making a unique kind of “barley miso”  which is made using only barley and salt.

▼ Ii Shoten’s flagship product

The shop has continued selling the product without changing the production method ever since it went on the market over 60 years ago. Recently, though, the shop suddenly received a notice from the Uwajima City health department saying that as Ii Shoten’s product does not contain soybeans as an ingredient, it cannot be sold as ‘barley miso,’ and so cannot contain the words ‘miso’ on any of its packaging.

Ii Shoten took to Twitter to share the news, saying they refused to accept the decision that had been made.

When asked if they would consider changing the production methods to include soybeans in order to satisfy the health department’s miso standards, Ii Shoten commented “It’s unlikely [that we’ll do that]. For a start, we have customers who are allergic to soybeans. A representative from the health department even had the cheek to say ‘Why don’t you just add one soybean?’, which infuriated us.”

Ii Shoten were given until November 11 to change their packaging, and while the company seemed reluctant to change their packaging, they later commented, “We are thinking about changing the packaging to a way that satisfies the requirements.”

An unexpected supporter came to their aid, though: Hiroyuki Nishimura, Japanese entrepreneur and founder of Japanese imageboard 2chan. Nishimura offered to pay the penalty fines for Ii Shoten, commenting, “It’s not fair that Ii Shoten, who have been making their miso for generations, have to follow such rules made now. People who are allergic to soy beans will never be able to enjoy miso soup again.”

It’s clear where Nishumura stands on the issue, and other netizens also rose up to defend Ii Shoten.

“Protect the local food culture!”
“Food culture is regional. I don’t understand what those people in the government offices are thinking!”
“There was a similar case with Matsuda Mayonnaise, who used honey instead of sugar in their product, so they were told they couldn’t call it ‘mayonnaise’.”

While labelling food correctly is clearly very important, especially for people with food intolerances and allergies, this seemed like a case of following the rules a little too strongly. Even if the fine for breaching the food labelling rules were to be paid, it’s unlikely that Ii Shoten would have been able to sell their products under their current ‘miso’ label.

Luckily for Ii Shoten, no fee was needed to be paid, as on November 4th the decision was completely overturned.

A written statement from a representative of Uwajima’s district governor was handed directly to Ii Shoten’s owner, apologising for the inconvenience and stating they had originally believed that Ii Shoten’s miso was in violation of the Act against Unjustifiable Premiums and Misleading Representations. The representative commented, “After a thorough assessment, and with the fact that Ii Shoten’s barley miso is widely recognised in Uwajima, we came to the conclusion that the likelihood of consumers being misled and misinterpreting the product is extremely low.”

All in all, a pretty interesting and unique case that had Japanese neitzens around the country questioning, “When is miso not miso?” Thankfully, this story has a happy ending, and even those with a soybean allergy can continue enjoying some tasty miso soup!

Source: Abema Times via Yahoo! Japan News via Hachima Kiko, JAS2022, Mainichi Shinbun
Featured image: White.Rainforest ™︎ ∙ 易雨白林. on Unsplash
Insert image: Pakutaso (1, 2)
● Want to hear about SoraNews24’s latest articles as soon as they’re published? Follow us on Facebook and Twitter!