I cannot fucking believe how much I’m losing my mind right now over soy sauce history. I’ll tell all of you about it after I finish this essay because I need to un-distract myself enough to finish it but what the fuck? What the fuck is going on? I’m losing my fucking mind.
During World War 2 there was a push to industrialize the Japanese soy sauce industry to be better for mass-production. This innovated the chemical fermentation technique and the semichemical fermentation technique utilized by Kikkoman; rather than ferment for four years in gigantic cedar barrels, kioke, instead fermentation takes place for six months or a year in stainless steel barrels which utilize electrolysis to artificially speed up fermentation processes.
During Postwar occupation by Americans, Japan was experiencing massive shortages for the raw materials needed to make soy sauce nationwide, and was forced to rely on exported materials from America to make production. A single American woman named “Ms Appleton” was given total control of apportioning all American soy bean rations to companies, how much, and to who. She had no knowledge of soy sauce, allegedly.
She apparently had so much power over Japanese soy sauce production that she could singlehandedly shape its future by threatening to not give soy beans to any company, family, or factory which did not utilize her specific requirements of semichemical fermentation (reduced from chemical fermentation, since it was that abhorrent). These days, the term soy sauce is distinct from traditional shoyu, and requires distinguishment because of such a radical difference the two products are.
Here’s the problem, folks:
I can find absolutely no evidence that Ms Appleton ever existed. There are no sources about this specific period in Japanese history that I’m able to definitively confirm. All of the sources which reference Ms Appleton are referencing in circles with each other; there is no listed source for any of them. Kikkoman’s official English website is a veritable goldmine of information regarding this piece of history, with an entire 4 size 13 paragraphs. It not only gives me a first name, Blanche, but also tells me she worked for General Headquarters and that her policies and decisions shaped governmental policies heading into the future.
Except any variation of searching for Ms Appleton, Ms Blanche Appleton, and so on gives me absolutely no information about her ever existing. By appending keywords such as Ms Blanche Appleton+soy sauce, or Ms Blanche Appleton+GHQ, we can find the same couple of sources that are circling each other–or, in the case of the latter, only Kikkoman.
But there is NOTHING else. I’m getting pageantry from some minnesotan town; I’m getting world war 2 veteran records and obituaries when trying to follow that route; I’m getting k-12 teachers and a Titanic survivor named Charlotte. There is no fucking evidence of a Blanche Appleton to substantiate these claims.
And this is fucking massive. Because there should be way more information on her if this was the case; she was apparently powerful and influential enough during the occupation that she could singlehandedly enforce whatever arbitrary rules she wanted on the soy sauce industry and they had to comply or else have no product at all. That level of power is fucking insane. Imagine having so much raw influence over Japan that you could order them to completely renovate and change how they produce and make SOY SAUCE, literally one of if not THE most important thing in Japanese culinary history–and yet there’s absolutely zero reference to this outside of like, three specific sites, and none of them have sources, or if they do, they source those sites.
What the fuck is happening here? There shouldn’t be radio silence about this woman. There should be records of her policies, there should be legal documents in America which record how she apportioned out American exportation of soy beans to Japan, there should be sources talking about this woman’s ability to transform Japan’s soy sauce production so heavily that today only 1% of all soy sauce is made with pre-WW2 traditional techniques.
So if she’s that big a deal then why does she not exist?
I feel like I’m losing it. I can’t think about this too hard because it gives me a headache trying to comprehend any possible answer. There is so many levels to how this shouldn’t be happening that I can’t settle on just one. I don’t understand how some foreigner American could have an iron fist over soy beans so hard that she could apparently influence national policy heading into 2022 but I can only find a first name on the Kikkoman website.
I literally just sent in a Freedom of Information Act request to the national archives asking for any records of a Ms Blanche Appleton, her reports, census information, anything. I can’t believe that I’m having to use FOIA to try and ask the government to prove a woman existed because she was that big of a deal in SCAP/GHQ.
This is a translated page of Kikkoman’s .co.jp website, with an apparent picture of Ms Appleton.
But this says that she has an apparent good knowledge of soy sauce brewing–directly contradictory to the Kikkoman.com claim that she had “no experience”. And it also claims she was in charge of GHQ, which I’m going to assume is a mistranslation, but still.
Major General Murcutt doesn’t exist. Douglas MacArthur was appointed head of GHQ/SCAP during the occupation of Japan. This now just has more questions. How did this woman become so important to GHQ that she could directly speak with a Major General? Any level of power or public view she SHOULD have isn’t here. You don’t just get to be colleagues of a Major Damn General in Post World War 2 Japan. That isn’t given to any random housewife.
I just emailed a shoyu brewer family, Yamaroku, about this. The Yamaroku brewery was established 400 years ago; if the company/family were affected during the 1950 import rations and under the thumb of the Supreme Command of the Allied Powers, they’d have records and memory of Blanche Appleton or what it was like during that period as a brewery.
I am at the point where I am genuinely considering the possibility of Blanche Appleton never having existed. There is the chance that Kikkoman invented an ‘ambassador’-type person with high influence in the General Headquarters during the occupation to grant itself apparent influence/validity/power above the rest of the competition. “The woman who controls all soy materials coming into Japan visited our main factory and said she liked us :)”.
It’s incredibly fitting that my first act of serious investigative journalism is about soy sauce. Like, I’m a little annoyed at how on brand this is for me. Of course I’m overly invested in this weird little nitpick about soy sauce. Of course I’m making this the government’s problem.
It’s currently 12:14AM. I have just learned that a private individual submitted a research query to the Japanese National Diet Library in 2008 regarding any information or proof of Blanche Appleton in relation to soy sauce production.
This information was told to me by a follower of mine–who asked to be anonymous. So right now we have evidence that Japan as an entity cannot find evidence of Blanche Appleton ever existing within relation to soy sauce production. And I can’t find evidence of Blanche Appleton existing in obituary records, nor any publicly available birth/deaths.
Right now there seems to be more and more evidence that Miss Blanche Appleton was a complete invention of the Kikkoman Company possibly dating back nearly a hundred years. But why?
If nothing comes back from my Freedom of Information Act request, I’m going to be contacting Kikkoman directly. I’m not going to just let this slide. People have been noticing this since at least 2008. Who is Miss Blanche Appleton? Why would she be faked by Kikkoman? What’s the point of this lie, and if it’s the truth, if she was real, why can’t I find any proof of that?
Who is Blanche Appleton?
Why is everything starting to point towards yakuza/organized crime Kikkoman origin story and why am I researching zaibatsu breakups of the GHQ and where assets from various clans got sent to.
[image: Tumblr tag: #dont dig too deep op]
keep digging, please, this is fascinating and disturbing