Hitoshi Hokamura is a lifelong lover of fermented foods, known in Japanese as hakkō shokuhin, and their long, central legacy in the country’s cuisine. He isn’t, however, blinded by the past.

“Japan is advanced when it comes to food technologies,” Hokamura, a one-time tech developer and “food tech evangelist” tells me from a shop and mini-museum on hakkō (fermentation) in downtown Toyama. “But you shouldn’t be too proud of it. When new technology comes, you know, the market changes quickly.”

Takashi Sato, the eighth-generation president of U.S.-based shoyu maker and distributor San-J International, wholeheartedly agrees.