Provenance: Okinawa, Japan
About: To gain a greater appreciation for the beauty of Japan’s artisanal sea salt, we must first discuss the recent history of Japan’s salt industry.
For most of the 20th century, Japan’s government had a monopoly on all salt production. During this time, the salt that was produced was 99% sodium chloride. This salt funded the Russo-Japanese war as well as other government endeavors and was seen purely as an industrial commodity.
Most Japanese people knew that their country had a rich salt heritage. Surrounded by beautiful oceans waters, salt had been made artisanally on Japan’s shores since ancient times. The government salt monopoly eventually came to an end due to public outcry from the citizens of Japan as well as the medical community, who knew that the refined table salt the Japanese people were being forced to use had no nutritional value. And so, in 1997, the salt ban was lifted, and small-scale artisanal sea salt makers began to pop up along Japan’s coastline. These makers produce salt with a love of Japan’s sea, sun, and wind and produce what we consider to be the most exquisite salts in the world.
The sea salt that we have chosen to work with comes from the pristine coral waters that surround the beautiful Ishigaki Island of Okinawa, pumped from 60 feet below sea level. We are passionate about this salt due to its extensive, rich mineral profile (over four dozen minerals) and the unique low-temperature misting process used to bring the seawater to its crystallized form. Since high temperatures are avoided, the salt’s mineral content is extremely close to that of live seawater.
Interesting to note: Salt is more than a food in Japan. It is associated with purification and therefore good luck in Japanese culture. Salt is often used in Shinto purification ceremonies. It is also used to purify the ring before a sumo wrestling match. You may also find tiny bowls of salt placed outside Japan’s traditional business. This is said to attract customers. We have also heard that long ago, horses would be attracted to the salt and make their way over to the stores with their owners in tow, thus leading to additional business and prosperity.