Once Upon a Time in the faraway land of Japan, families made their own miso. Soybeans and sea salts were tossed in with rice. Barley and wheat were used to make miso, too. (Rice was pretty pricey for a few centuries.) Japanese koji (fermented cooked rice and soybeans) was key to the storage of miso during snowy winters in the olden days. (Way before refrigeration and supermarkets.)
Each home had their unique take and flavor of miso. A family with blooming Japanese yuzu trees, tossed in the citrus fruit to their miso. The Imperial Palace served only hatcho miso during the Meiji Period. Why? Emperor Meiji insisted on hatcho miso from Okazaki, Japan. Ironically, Okazaki was the hometown of Ieyasu Tokugawa – the Shogun – whose family ruled Japan for 200 years. And just happened to precede the Meiji Period.
Fast forward to the New Millennium: More than just the local miso is available at the supermarket. For a soupcon taste of miso from all over Japan, visit Mankyu Misoten in Asakusa. The store has sold miso since 1804. (Tokyo’s oldest temple – Sensoji – is also found in Asakusa. And so are tons of tourists!)