Spread out before us were countless “aman” urns. The area where these urns are lined up are called “fields” in this area. Black vinegar is nurtured under the sunlight, the rain, the wind and sometimes even volcanic ash. Fukuyama city in Kirishima-shi of Kagoshima is a town of “kurozu” or black vinegar with 8 breweries which deliver kurozu around the country.
“They looked into the reason Fukuyama produces such great quality black vinegar, but weren’t able to discover a definitive cause. They even tried using the exact same ingredients and methods, but it didn’t turn out well.” (Shinji Kubozono, Factory Manager for Fukuyama Kurozu)
Vinegar was first produced in 5000 BC in the southern portion of Mesopotamia called Babylonia (close to what is now Iraq). The techniques were passed on around the world, and vinegar was made from many different ingredients such as wheat and mixed grains, eventually being introduced to Japan in the fourth century from China.
Vinegar production began in this area in the late Edo period, during the 1800’s. The local premium rice and the clean clear water combined with cool summers and warm winters seemed to be the ideal environment for making vinegar. Vinegar is made in the very same way, even 200 years later.
Aman urns are indispensable for making vinegar because they absorb the heat from the sun to induce natural temperature control and convection, making them ideal for fermenting outdoors. Aman urns become better with age, as natural yeast and acetic bacteria attach to the inner surface.
“After adding malted rice, steamed brown rice and underground water to the urn, another layer of malted rice is sprinkled on to the surface of the water (“furi koji”). Even if you add the same amount of ingredients, the flavor will be different with each urn. Some may not even ferment, so we check the urns daily.” (Kubonozo)
The vinegar is fermented in the urns for 6 months to a year, and become amber in color after fermenting for 3 years, producing black vinegar. Most vinegars are shipped out after only 24 to 48 hours of fermentation, but Fukuyama Kurozu allows the vinegar to ferment for a very long time, increasing the amino acids for a mild but deep flavor and aroma.
It actually does look like a “field” where delicious black vinegar is made as nature and humans work together. This process is very similar to the traditional ways in which vegetables and fruit are made. Using the very best ingredients, in an environment that is ideal for “kurozu” production, and long term fermentation. “Kakuida” gives extra care to every element, in creating black vinegar that is loved by many.
Kakuida also runs an exhibit, a gallery and Japan’s first “kurozu” restaurant. Enjoy a special lunch where every item is made using “Kakuida kurozu” or the original “kurozu” beverage. You can purchase brown rice vinegar “Kakuida” or “kurozu salad dressing” in the shop.
All of the products made at Fukuyama Kurozu do not have the distinct aroma or taste of vinegar, overturning the preconception that “black vinegar is good for your health but unpleasant to drink”. It’s quite interesting that a product made by tradition and history can provide the dual benefits of health and great taste, both of which are necessary in modern society.
Left: 5 year fermented, organic Kakuida Takara
The ultimate black vinegar, slowly fermented in the urn for 5 years, using the very best ingredients and traditional methods.
Right: organic Kakuida 5 year fermentation
Other seasonings are also available which offer the same quality of the famous kurozu. The “fresh fruit kurozu” uses 3 year fermented organic black vinegar and whole fresh, juicy fruit. The aroma and flavor of the fresh fruit bring out the great features of the kurozu, and is recommended for those who dislike the strong taste of vinegar. “Sanbai Kurozu” is free of additives and “Citrus Kurozu with Bonito Flakes” uses dried bonito flakes from Makurazaki in Kagoshima, a great accompaniment for hot pots during the pandemic.
- Fukuyama Kurozu (Headquarters)
- 2888 Fukuyama, Fukuyama-cho, Kirishima, Kagoshima