Jorinji co-founder, Earnest Migaki grew up with his mother’s miso soup and tsukemono (Japanese pickles). As a third-generation Japanese American born in Portland, he was used to only experiencing these traditional flavors in his home or in Japanese restaurants and markets, but he never anticipated he would be creating these naturally fermented sauces for restaurants, bakeries, and customers throughout the Pacific Northwest.
Earnest met his first wife, Sumiko, after living in Japan for a few years after college. They settled down in Japan for a few years but when the Japanese economy started to falter, they decided to move to Portland in 1994. This was when Sumiko began to experiment with making her own umami-filled miso, the Japanese staple ingredient she and Earnest knew so well.
From the start, it was important for Sumiko to create a handcrafted miso like her mother used to make. Upon moving to the US, she brought miso recipe books and tools to use in continuing the tradition. It took time and experimentation, but she eventually landed on a salty-sweet, earthy miso that captured those familiar flavors from her youth. Along with Earnest, the couple launched Jorinji Miso in 1995. The name “Jorinji” is inspired by a Japanese temple in Sumiko’s hometown and translates as “success forest temple,” a reference to her Japanese roots and the forests of the Pacific Northwest.
Sadly, after many successful years, Sumiko passed away in 2013. This sudden occurrence was a blow to Earnest, and he struggled to find a way forward for his business. Luckily, he was surrounded by a community of avid supporters who not only comforted him but also stepped up to help with production and distribution in the trying times.
Things took a turn for the better when he met Yuri at a Portland farmers market in 2015. Like Earnest and Sumiko, Yuri also grew up with a deep respect for the traditional flavors from her childhood, making miso with ingredients harvested by her family. Her career highlighted these values as she worked to share the great food, producers and culture of Japan with the world.
She teamed up with Earnest to further explore the art of fermentation and improve the quality of their products. They embraced the flavor, texture, and consistency already contained in Jorinji Miso, but soon began to build upon this foundation by expanding their product line, appearing in more markets, and even participating in special events like the Portland Fermentation Festival. This partnership eventually grew into a marriage after working so closely together, and we’re grateful for it!