Soy sauce goes by the name shoyu in Japan. It is a delicious fermented liquid made from soybeans, roasted grain, water, and salt. Shoyu originated in China close to 2,500 years ago. Buddhist monks brought soy sauce to Japan in the 7th century. Shoyu is used as a condiment to season food, as an ingredient in cooked dishes, or to flavor raw foods. It is used in stir-fried dishes, marinades for meat, fish, or vegetables, and is also used in place of salt in soups and stews.
Although there are many types of soy sauce, all are salty, brown, and rich in flavor. The basic taste of shoyu is known as umami (fresh taste) in Japan. It can be stored for up to a year at room temperature but away from direct sunlight.
Tamari is a type of shoyu. It is the original Japanese soy sauce fermented without gluten. Tamari is dark and rich with a delicious and delicate smoky flavor. It is distinct from other shoyus, and there has long been confusion about it. For marketing purposes, all shoyus were sold as tamari in the U.S., even synthetic shoyus, but real natural tamari is different in that it is fermented without wheat. The recipe for tamari is closest to the soy sauce originally introduced to Japan from China. You may hear it referred to as miso-damari which is the liquid that drains from soybean miso as it matures. Soybean miso is an aged paste consisting of soybeans, a grain such as rice, salt, and a specific mold culture, all of which are left for up to three years.
Real tamari and other shoyus have a superior flavor to synthetic soy sauces. Synthetic soy sauce is not recognized by the Japanese government which allows only five different types of soy sauce to be labeled as shoyu.