San-J Family

Why Virginia?

Written by: Takashi Sato, San-J President Posted on: January 30, 2017

The history of our business goes back to 1804 in Japan. We opened our sales office in the USA in 1978. After nine years, we built our brewing facility in Virginia and since then, we’ve been selling our Tamari made in the USA.

We get many visitors to our facility, and we’re often asked why we chose Virginia as the location to brew our Tamari. It was my father who made the decision when he was president of San-J, and there are several benefiting factors that led him to this decision.


The climate of Virginia is suitable for brewing. It’s similar to the climate of Japan with four seasons and high humidity. So he determined that our brewing experiences in Japan could be utilized in Virginia as well. Virginia’s climate is so ideal for brewing that there are 248 wineries and 124 beer breweries in the state. The number of wineries is the second largest in the East Coast, following the state of New York. Our former production director was making wine as a hobby and now that he’s retired, he has opened his own winery!


Our brewing facility is located in Henrico where I-95 runs north and south, and there is also Amtrak. The Amtrak railroad branches off directly to our facility. In addition to that, Port of Virginia in Norfolk is the biggest port in the east coast. These assets enable us to deliver our products efficiently and avoid longer lead-time.


When we started marketing our products in the USA forty years ago, the awareness of Japanese cuisine was low. We could have built our facility in California where many Japanese people lived, and therefore Japanese food was more popular there. However, we had a concern that if we depend on consumption of our product within the Japanese community, it could become more difficult for us to go into the mainstream market. We came to the USA so that all people would be able to enjoy our Tamari Soy Sauce. Therefore, we chose Virginia as our home base to build our brewing facility. It was a more challenging route but it has allowed us to build a closer relationship with this country.


Tamari soy sauce has a long history. There are different theories but it was first made over 500 years ago. It is said that Tamari is the origin of Japanese soy sauce. The Colony of Virginia was the first permanently settled English colony in North America. Berkeley Plantation, the Virginia’s most historic plantation is just 15-minute drive from our facility. That was where settlers observed the first official Thanksgiving in America. My father wanted to continue our brewing tradition in this Virginia where it is rich in tradition.

As we’ve experienced such great growth over the past several years, we’ve begun expanding our facility. I have no doubt that our success had much to do with my father’s decision of choosing to build in Virginia.

Our facility expansion started last fall. As a matter of fact, we considered building our second facility in another state. But the state of Virginia has supported our business since our startup in the American market and we’d like to give back to the community.


I had the pleasure of meeting with Governor Terry McAuliffe of Virginia a few months ago, and I was excited to report the successful start on our facility expansion. Our local Virginia expansion will bring advanced manufacturing jobs to the community where we feel so welcome. We’re pleased to contribute to a growing economy and a loving community.