Shoyu: 5 Common Types of Japanese Soy Sauce

When I think of Japan-originating seasoning that is widely known in the world, what comes to my mind first is “Shoyu (醤油)”, known as soy sauce in English-speaking countries.

Many overseas people may have used the traditional Japanese seasoning before or now may have it in the kitchen. However, have you ever heard that there are several types of Shoyu or soy sauce?

Shoyu: 5 Major Types of Soy Sauce in Japan

For people who don’t know much about Shoyu or Japanese soy sauce, today let me introduce 5 major types of it that are commonly used in Japan.

Koikuchi Shoyu (濃口醤油: Dark Soy Sauce)

Koikuchi Shoyu

First off, Koikuchi Shoyu, referred to as dark soy sauce in English, is the most common type of soy sauce in Japan, which accounts for about 80 % of the soy sauce produced in the country.

Koikuchi Shoyu is made with almost the same amount of wheat as soybeans and its salt concentration is about 16 %. This soy sauce has a good balance between aroma, color, and taste and is for all-purpose uses.

Usukuchi Shoyu (淡口醤油: Light-Colored Soy Sauce)

Usukuchi Shoyu

Usukuchi Shoyu, known as light-colored soy sauce in English, accounts for about 13 % of the gross production amount of soy sauce in Japan. This soy sauce is light in color compared to Koikuchi Shoyu because its fermentation process is shorter in time. 

You might guess Koikuchi Shoyu or dark soy sauce contains more salt than this variety comparing their colors, but the truth is the other way around and the salt concentration of Usukuchi Shoyu is about 18 %.

This variety is mild and modest in fragrance and umami compared to dark soy sauce and is suitable as a seasoning for NimonoSuimono, or Udon broth.

Tamari Shoyu (たまり醤油: Aged Soy Sauce)

Tamari Shoyu, known as aged soy sauce, accounts for about 2 % of the soy sauce produced in Japan. This soy sauce has a salt concentration of about 16 %.

Both Koikuchi Shoyu and Usukuchi Shoyu are made from soybeans and wheat, using the 2 ingredients at almost the same rate, while Tamari Shoyu is made mostly with soybeans and aged for one year.

Tamari Shoyu is packed with umami and is thick in consistency, rich in taste. This variety goes well with Sashimi, or sliced raw fish, and is commonly used as a sauce for rice crackers like Senbei, Okaki, and Arare.

Saishikomi Shoyu (再仕込み醤油: Refermented Soy Sauce)

With a salt concentration of about 16%, Saishikomi Shoyu, often referred to as re-fermented or double-brewed soy sauce in English, accounts for about 1 % of the soy sauce produced in Japan. 

In the process of soy sauce making, koji is usually combined with salt, but this variety is made by adding unheated soy sauce called “Kiage Shoyu (生揚醤油)”, instead of salt.

So Saishikomi Shoyu is darker in color, thicker in consistency, and has more umami components than other types, and besides costs more. Saishikomi Shoyu is mainly used for Sashimi and Sushi.

Shiro Shoyu (白醤油: White Soy Sauce)

Shiro Shoyu White Soy Sauce

Shiro Shoyu, known as white soy sauce in English, accounts for just under 1 % of the gross production amount of soy sauce in Japan. This variety uses only a few soybeans and is made mostly with steamed wheat.

As “Shiro (白)” means white in Japanese, Shiro Shoyu has the lightest color among these 5 types but its salt concentration is as high as Usukuchi Shoyu, about 18%. Also, its umami is light in proportion to the color.

Nonetheless, thanks to the light hue, white soy sauce can make the most of the original color of food materials and is preferably used as a secret seasoning by professional Japanese chefs.

(Reference Page: Kikkoman)


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

2 Responses

  1. sri says:

    Konnichiwa Tomo san,
    I like to read your blog and get some new knowledge about Shoyu, Gohan no tomo Furikake, by the way I found some Japanese product here in Munich. I love Japan food which make me slim🥳
    Greeting from 🇩🇪

    • Tomo says:

      こんにちわ (konnichiwa)、Sriさん!
      Thank you for the comment!
      I’m glad to hear that!
      I don’t know much about German products,
      but love the castles, which are very beautiful!

      Thank you😊

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