30 August 2020

SLC Was Once the Source of 75% of Miso in the US

Richard Sugasawara mixes ingredients to
make miso, SL Trib Aug 14 1949
The Fujimoto family of SLC once produced 75% of miso manufactured in the US.

In 1945 Edward K. Fujimoto and his wife Rae re-established the Fujimoto & Co in SLC at 302 S 500 West, just behind the Rio Grande Depot.

Originally, Edward’s father Genpei Fujimoto started the company in 1917 in San Francisco- it was the first and largest miso company in the continental US. Edward inherited the company when Genpei died in 1929. Operations continued in San Francisco until the US entry into WWII.

Edward, who immigrated to the US in 1916, was soon arrested for being a foreign-born Japanese of prominence and was sent to Camp Livingston in Louisiana.

Rae, immediately took over operations of the business. Anticipating the upcoming forced relocation, she put some of the equipment in storage, sold other equipment, and haggled for the best price of their miso in the warehouse.

A few months after Edward’s arrest, his wife Rae, teenage daughter Grace, and mother Tsuya were all forcibly placed in Topaz Relocation Center, near Delta, Utah (Grace and Rae were both US Citizens).

By 1944 Edward has been paroled to Topaz and was reunited with his family. He and Rae immediately began planning for the reestablishment of their miso business, this time in SLC.

In 1944, from inside the walls of Topaz, Rae wrote to the SLC Council and obtained a business license. By early 1945, Edward and Rae had established their new miso manufacturing factory at 302 S 500 West SLC. Soon, daughter Grace joined them to help with the bookkeeping.

They made the Kanemasa brand of miso using the old methods and without the use of modern machinery. The business provided jobs to many recently released internees.

In 1956 Edward drowned while on a fishing trip in Idaho. Rae continued operations of the business until her retirement in 1976. Fujimoto & Co was acquired by Miyako Oriental Foods in the 1970s and they still manufacture miso under the Kanemasa brand. Rae died in 1997, Grace died in 2017.

Note: The University of Utah Marriot Library has an oral history of Grace Fujimoto Oshito in which she describes the traditional process of making miso (and her time in Topaz). The process is too long for me to post here but it is an interesting read.  

Fujimoto & Co, 1954 at 302 S 500 W, from Japanese Americans in Utah

Mrs. Rae Fujimoto, SL Trib Nov 12 1962

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