What Is Japanese Soy Sauce? (Types, Taste + More)

Soy sauce is a staple ingredient in a lot of Asian dishes, especially in Japanese cuisine since soy sauce is called for in many Japanese recipes.

However, seeing the term “Japanese soy sauce” may make you wonder: What is Japanese soy sauce? I did some digging, and here is what I found!

What Is Japanese Soy Sauce?

Japanese soy sauce refers to soy sauces made in Japan that follow Japanese traditions. Generally, Japanese soy sauce tastes sweet and savory, but the exact taste depends on the brand and type of Japanese soy sauce. Moreover, how you use Japanese soy sauce will depend on the kind you have, but common Japanese soy sauce can be used in most recipes.

Do you want to learn more facts about Japanese soy sauce? Keep reading!

What Does Japanese Soy Sauce Taste Like?

Generally, Japanese soy sauces tend to taste sweet, especially when compared to other soy sauces like Chinese soy sauce.

However, Japanese soy sauces still have a very savory and salty taste with a slightly alcoholic flavor, which is present due to the natural alcohols that develop during the fermentation process.

Moreover, the exact way Japanese soy sauce tastes will depend on the type of Japanese soy sauce you have since there are many varieties.

For instance, tamari is a type of Japanese soy sauce that does not contain wheat, so the high concentration of soybeans gives tamari soy sauce a very savory flavor with little to no sweetness.

Why Is Japanese Soy Sauce So Salty?

Generally, Japanese soy sauces are very salty because salt is one of the main ingredients in soy sauce.

Additionally, soy sauce contains natural MSG that comes from the fermentation process, meaning manufacturers do not add MSG to their soy sauces.

Instead, soy sauce naturally appears as the soy sauce ages, and MSG can add to the saltiness of soy sauce since MSG tastes like salt.

Moreover, soy sauce’s original purpose was to stretch salt since salt used to be expensive, which is why soy sauce tends to be very salty.

What Types Of Japanese Soy Sauce Are There?

Japan Agricultural Standards have classified 5 types of Japanese soy sauce, which are:

1. Koikuchi Shoyu (Common)

“Common” soy sauce is the most popular Japanese soy sauce type, and common soy sauce features deeply savory and salty flavors with a rounded sweetness.

2. Tamari Shoyu (Tamari)

Tamari soy sauce is soy sauce made without wheat, and tamari is very savory and slightly thicker than other soy sauces.

3. Usukuchi Shoyu (Light color)

This is a type of light-colored soy sauce that uses 10% less salt than the common Japanese soy sauce and is commonly used to enhance a recipe’s natural flavors.

4. Shiro Shoyu (Extra light color)

Lighter than the light color soy sauce, this amber-colored and pale soy sauce is very sweet yet bland and is a common ingredient in soup recipes.

5. Saishikomi Shoyu (Refermented)

Refermented soy sauce is made by using common soy sauce instead of water, creating a dark and flavorful soy sauce with a strong sweet taste.

How Do You Use Japanese Soy Sauce?

How Do You Use Japanese Soy Sauce?

How you use Japanese soy sauce will depend on the type of Japanese soy sauce you have.

If you have common Japanese soy sauce, you can use common Japanese soy sauce in most recipes since it is an “all-around” soy sauce.

Tamari soy sauce is often used as a dipping sauce for sashimi and sushi, but tamari can also be used for grilled recipes.

Normally, light color soy sauce is used like Chinese light soy sauce as a light seasoning to enhance the taste of dishes like stews, soups, and more.

Extra light color soy sauce is ideal for very light soups since extra light color soy sauce is almost bland, but extra light color soy sauce can also be used to make pickles, rice crackers, etc.

Refermented soy sauce is often used as a table condiment due to refermented soy sauce’s bold color and flavor and is commonly poured over chilled tofu, sushi, sashimi, etc.

How Is Japanese Soy Sauce Made?

Traditionally, Japanese soy sauce is made by putting soybeans in water to soak while wheat gets crushed.

Next, the crushed wheat and soaked soybeans are combined with a culturing mold then this mixture develops for 2-3 days.

After 2-3 days, the mixture ages in fermenting tanks for several months or years then gets pressed to release a liquid, which is soy sauce.

However, the exact way traditional Japanese soy sauce gets made will depend on the type of soy sauce.

Did Japan Invent Soy Sauce?

Japan did not invent soy sauce because soy sauce was introduced to Japan by China.

Eventually, the Japanese adapted soy sauce into Japanese culture and created their own versions of soy sauce.

What Is The Difference Between Japanese Soy Sauce And Soy Sauce?

There is not much significant difference between Japanese soy sauce and soy sauce because the main difference between the two is that one soy sauce was made in Japan.

Is Japanese Soy Sauce The Same As Chinese Soy Sauce?

Japanese soy sauce and Chinese soy sauce are not the same because they have different flavor profiles.

What Can I Substitute For Japanese Soy Sauce?

Generally, any regular soy sauce can make a great substitute for Japanese soy sauce.

For instance, Lee Kum Kee Premium Soy Sauce can easily replace Kikkoman Naturally Brewed Soy Sauce, but the Lee Kum Kee variant may have less of an alcoholic-like taste.

Take a look at our other articles to learn what double fermented soy sauce is, what first draw soy sauce is, and what caramel soy sauce is.


Japanese soy sauce refers to any soy sauce made in Japan, and there are five types of Japanese soy sauce with “common” soy sauce being the most popular Japanese soy sauce.

Generally, Japanese soy sauce has a salty, savory, and alcoholic-like flavor with a rounded sweetness.

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