In a small, yellow trailer-turned-café next to the Ippon Matsu Chaya Souvenir Store and across the street from the famous Miracle Pine, you will find one of Rikuzentakata’s most delicious and unique treats: shoyu (Japanese soy sauce) flavored ice cream.
Now, shoyu might not be one of the first things that come to mind when you think of ice cream flavors, but trust us that this is a delicious and addictive treat that is not to be missed.
Made by Yagisawa Shoten, a local Rikuzentakata soy sauce brewery, this shoyu ice cream is of the soft serve variety, smooth and creamy and swirled into an icy tower. Initially the ice cream tastes of sweet vanilla with a hint of saltiness, but as you continue to eat, the earthiness and depth of the shoyu become more pronounced, offering a perfect balance to the rich vanilla ice cream. (Think of it as a Japanese twist on salted caramel). With each lick the flavors become more complex, and we promise that by the time you finish the cone you’ll be addicted.
And as good the shoyu ice cream is, it tastes even better once you know the amazing story behind the company that makes it.
Yagisawa Shoten is local soy sauce brewery with a history spanning over 200 years. From the beginning they had continuously cultivated and used their special supply of moromi, the live fermenting agent that gives shoyu its signature taste. Yagisawa Shoten’s shoyu, which owed its taste in large part to the moromi, even won the Japanese National Award for Best Shoyu three times!
However, during the events of the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami on March 11, 2011, all of Yagisawa Shoten’s facilities were washed away, including their storefront, warehouse, factory…and their moromi. Yagisawa Shoten did not know how they would recover after the tsunami, but they nevertheless promised to keep their employees and pay them their full salaries as long as they could, even with no products and no income.
Miraculously, 4kg of Yagisawa Shoten’s special moromi were found unharmed in a research laboratory in the coastal city of Kamaishi. Thus, Yagisawa Shoten was able to reconvene production of their famed soy sauce (after using crowd-funding to finance the construction of a new factory) and the company was saved.
While the shoyu ice cream is the biggest draw of the Yagisawa Shoten pop-up café near the Miracle Pine, the location all sells several varieties of Yagisawa Shoten’s shoyu and other shoyu-based products such as salad dressings and dipping sauces. For anyone who makes a trip to Rikuzentakata, it is absolutely a must-stop location.