Kikkoman, the 'Shoyu' of Official Washington

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Today's quiz—and product endorsement: Did you know that there is only one soy sauce accepted in official Washington circles? Retired Gen. Richard Myers, a former Joint Chiefs chairman, tells us that in 1971, while he was stationed in Japan, friends "introduced us to Kikkoman. Up until that time, we'd been the victim of some other brand." His buds, says Myers, "told us that there was only one brand, and we've been using Kikkoman since." Former Rep. Norm Mineta, a cabinet secretary for both Presidents Bush and Clinton, tells of seeking out the "shoyu" sauce when he arrived in Congress in 1974. Sitting down to a meal in a House dining room, he asked for Kikkoman, only to be told that he'd have to raid the private stash of Rep. Spark Matsunaga. "I approached him and asked, 'Sparky, would you mind if I used your shoyu?' " From then on, "I'd always ask for Congressman Matsunaga's Kikkoman."

Now, 50 years after becoming one of the first Japanese companies to set up business here, the soy giant is celebrating, and Myers and Mineta are hosting the gala. Why in Washington? "It's where business, commerce, government, policy, and diplomacy intersect," says Kikkoman President Kuniki Hatayama. "We are proud," Chairman Yuzaburo Mogi tells us, "that our products have helped redefine the foods and flavors on the American table."

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JOE CIARDIELLO FOR USN & WR