The written word, miso, first appeared around 800 AD. Among the royalty it was sometimes
called "…higurashi , meaning ‘a clear-toned summer cicada’ whose song is said to be able to
penetrate even the hardest stone. Likewise, the rich fragrance and fine flavor of miso were known to
penetrate and season other foods. For this reason, in the Kyoto area miso is still occasionally called
mushi or bamushi meaning ‘insect or honorable insect’." (1)
Many scholars theorize that miso developed from earlier fermented foods introduced into Japan from
China along with the arrival of Buddhism in the 6th Century AD. Others trace the origins of miso to the
northeastern provinces of Japan itself where archeological evidence indicates the early mastery of fermentation processes.
According to Japanese mythology, miso is a gift to mankind from the gods to assure lasting health, longevity, and happiness. (2)
(1) Shurtleff, William & Aoyagi, Akiko. The Book of Miso (Berkeley: Ten Speed Press, 1983), pg. 221.
(2) Michio Kushi in How to Cook with Miso (Tokyo: Japan Pub.,1978), pg. 27.