Soy Sauce, and a Big Island Family Session

I don’t know why, but I really thought I knew enough about soy sauce.

And then comes my wife, with her amazing ability to open my eyes, heart and taste buds to new and wonderful things. With only a single spoon, she destroyed my previous notions of what soy sauce was, is and can be!

In the past, I’d use soy sauce in cooking (not that I can cook very well), but I mostly had it when eating sushi or sashimi. Japanese food is huge here in Hawaii — I myself am part Japanese — so soy sauce is an important part of the local cuisine. Despite that, I never really tasted it. I never tried it by itself to thoughtfully examine the flavor.

One day while shopping in Target, my wife claimed that we needed to get a bottle of Kikkoman brand soy sauce; a claim that I almost immediately questioned, since we already had a big gallon sized jug of soy sauce at home. “But that’s Aloha brand shoyu” she said, “and Kikkoman is way better”. I paused for a moment and I didn’t really know what to think. Just as quickly as I had questioned her claim, I realized that I didn’t know anything about soy sauce, despite the fact that I’ve tasted it thousands of times.

You know nothing, Jon Snow.

So we returned home, bottle of Kikkoman in hand. I decided then and there to examine both brands, side by side, so I took out a spoon and first tried a sip of the Aloha brand.

Sweet, slightly tangy, quite salty, pretty ordinary and basically what I’ve had for decades. I’ve always felt it was rather flat, like salty-sweet water, but definitely goes good with raw fish or tofu.

I then tried the Kikkoman brand. A small sip from the spoon.


A rush of fermented soy flavor! I never knew soy sauce could have such tones. I could taste the aging process, I could feel it. It was salty, like any soy sauce, and slightly sweet, sure. It had most of what the Aloha brand had. But it also had a rich authenticity to it. I’m not even exaggerating when I tell you that it tasted like ancient Japanese history.

Aloha, on the other hand, tastes good, but not… soulful. Kikkoman is soulful.

I am now quite happy to share in the Kikkoman goodness with my wife, dousing our rice with it anytime we’re eating something even remotely “local”. I love that she teaches me new things like this. They aren’t huge things on their own… more like doors that she opens for me — doors that lead to paths I wouldn’t have taken without her. Paths I wouldn’t want to take without her, actually. And while there’s nothing wrong with taking the Aloha brand path of shoyu, we’re taking the Kikkoman path together, and it’s pretty great. 😀

This sort of thing always reminds me of the rest of life, and the paths we take. The choices we make. The good and the bad, the triumphs and mistakes. Life is really all just a bunch of soy sauce — salty, sweet, pungent, perhaps too much at times. But in the end it’s delicious, no matter your choice of brands. A good recipe doesn’t hurt — neither do quality ingredients. But an open mind and a thankful heart is enough to make any meal, and life itself, satisfying enough.

And with that, lets jump into some photos from a session I did with the Smith family, who are from Oklahoma, USA! It was a very relaxed session that was quite easy to shoot, thanks not only to excellent lighting conditions, but also to how laid-back the three of them were. A perfect Big Island afternoon. 🙂

– Jim

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