In April of 2016, a powerful earthquake rocked Kumamoto, toppling parts of Kumamoto Castle and damaging many other historical sites. One of those was 200-year old Soy Sauce maker Hamada Shoyu. Their oldest kura, or storehouse, had survived through the Edo, Meiji, Taisho, Showa and Heisei periods. So this earthquake wasn’t going to stop them. And, they had a powerful ally. When the earthquake struck, architect Kengo Kuma was one of the first to raise his hands and offer assistance.
After 3 years of renovations, the kura reopened this summer with the addition of a cafe and shop. The white “Namako” wall made from a traditional plastering technique was restored, and a three dimensional logo was added by a craftsman who specializes in the art.
Inside, the dark interior feels almost like an art exhibition as smells of fermenting soy sauce waft through the air. In fact, the space as a whole, which now houses a soy sauce factory, shop and cafe, have been designed to “show you” (sorry, couldn’t help it) the history of soy sauce culture in Kumamoto.
Up the stairs on the 2nd floor is Usagi Cafe, where you can relax from your travels and enjoy some soy sauce-flavored ice cream, sweets and tea.
All photography by Hiroshi Kuwahara courtesy Kengo Kuma Architects