Shoyu: 5 Common Types of Japanese Soy Sauce

When I think of seasonings of Japanese origin widely used in many countries, what comes to my mind right away is “Shoyu (醤油)”, known as soy sauce in English.

Many people probably have used the seasoning before or may have it in the kitchen now. But do you know Shoyu or Japanese soy sauce comes in several types?

Shoyu: 5 Types of Japanese Soy Sauce

Today, let me introduce five types commonly used in Japan for those who don’t know much about Shoyu or Japanese soy sauce.

Koikuchi Shoyu (濃口醤油: Dark Soy Sauce)

Koikuchi Shoyu

First, Koikuchi Shoyu, known as dark soy sauce in English, is the most commonly used soy sauce in Japan, accounting for over 80 percent of the soy sauce produced in the country.

Using almost the same amount of wheat and soybeans as raw material, Koikuchi Shoyu contains about 16 percent salt concentration.

This soy sauce is for all-purpose uses with a good balance between aroma, color, and taste.

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 percent of the gross production.

Although this soy sauce is light in color (because its fermentation process is short), its salt concentration is about 18 percent, higher than Koikuchi Shoyu.

This variety is mild and modest in fragrance and umami, often used in nimonosuimono, and udon broth.

Tamari Shoyu (たまり醤油: Aged Soy Sauce)

With about 16 percent salt concentration, Tamari Shoyu, known as aged soy sauce in English, accounts for about 2 percent of the soy sauce produced in Japan. 

While Koikuchi Shoyu and Usukuchi Shoyu are made with soybeans and wheat at almost the same ratio, Tamari Shoyu uses little of the latter.

This variety is aged, and thus, it is rich in umami taste with a thick consistency, going well with sushi and sashimi, 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 about 16 percent salt concentration, Saishikomi Shoyu, known as re-fermented or double-brewed soy sauce in English, accounts for about 1 percent of the gross production.

Koji is usually combined with salt in the process of soy sauce making, but this variety uses unheated soy sauce called “Kiage Shoyu (生揚醤油)” instead of salt.

So Saishikomi Shoyu has a darker color, thicker consistency, and more umami than other types and costs more. This one, too, pairs well with sushi and sashimi.

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 percent of the gross production. This variety is made with steamed wheat and a few soybeans.

As “Shiro (白)” means white in Japanese, Shiro Shoyu is the lightest in hue among these five types. 

But the salt concentration is as high as Usukuchi Shoyu, about 18 percent, and in proportion to the color, the umami is light.

Nonetheless, white soy sauce can make the most of the original color of foods and is preferably used as a secret seasoning by professional 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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