Satoyama library ~Japan Village Experience~

Seasoning Journey to living Satoyama - meet the ingredients, taste their stories!

Featured Tour

Village Life



Monday, 19 November 2018

How to make Natto, fermented soy bean

Fermentation is a basis of Japanese cuisine. The key seasonings, such as miso, soy sauce, venegar, sake, mirin (sweet sake) are all fermented products. Furthermore, tsukemono pickles, nukazuke,  natto, also add flavor on daily meals.

Some people do not like natto, because of its strong flavor and stinky smell, it is Japanese food culture to have natto on top of rice, typically served with miso soup.

History of natto in Japan

Formally, the first historical record of natto dates back to 11th century, but it is said that natto already existed in Yayoi period (300 BC–300 AD), when beans started to cultivate in Japan.

The ingredients are simple; only boild bean and straw, or even any kinds of wild grasses are possible to ferment soy beans. It is said that natto became popular among worrier, since it is handy to bring soy beans to battle field, wrapped by straw, then soy beans got naturally fermented.

Natto became commercial products in Edo period (1603 – 1868), and spread all over Japan.  Especially, natto produced in Mito in Ibaragi prefecture is popular. People in the eastern part of Japan more often eat natto, compared to the west.

Merit of natto

Why fermented foods became widespread in Japan? One of the advantage of fermentation is that harvested crops can be preservable for longer term, especially in rural area, crops can be harvested a lot at one time, and less in winter season. It is required to stock food and prepare for off-season. Also, fermentation adds much more nutrition value as well.

The other advantages of fermented soy beans are; 
  • It contains Nattokinase
  • It is rich in protein, Vitamin K, B2, B6 and E, mineral, and fiber
Especially, in Japanese cuisine, soy bean products such as tofu, miso, natto are major protein sources. 

How to make natto

It is fermented with Bacillus subtilis, which grows under the aerobic condition.
It is very interesting to make various types of natto in combination of diverse beans and plants, from which natural bacteria can be harvested. It should not be always "soy", but it is possible to make natto by using kidney beans, peas, black beans, azuki beans, and even rice, or other grains as well!

In Japan, we use rice straw to harvest natto bacteria, however, in other asian countries, various plants are used, for instance, banana leaves are used in Thailand, and in Myammer, it is believed that a certain kind of fern can make the best natto.

Here is a report on the combination of plants and beans:
Table of fermentation: Natto from the world


  1. Soak beans for 6-24 hours depending on variety and temperature 
  2. Steam soy beans or other types of beans and peas 
  3. Inoculation: Wrapped with straw or other leaves 
  4. Keep it warm for 24-48 hours 
  5. Keep it in fridge for 24 hours (the taste will be better after leaving one more day)

How to use natto

If you do not like the strong smell of natto, you can also use it as a seasoning.

Natto shoyu

blend following ingredients;
natto, salted koji, amazake, soy sauce, chili, seaweeds

Natto dressing for salad

blend with; 
natto, leek, radish, ginger, lemon, vinegar

Sunday, 7 October 2018

3-Day fermentation workshop to learn key seasonings of washoku

3-Day The Art of Fermentation Workshop

We organized 3-Day fermentation workshop to learn key seasonings of washoku, Japanese cuisine, making several fermented foods and visiting local miso, shoyu, sake breweries in Nara.
"How can I make koji?" "Where can I buy soy bean koji malt?" "How to controle temperature and pH?"

Participants are all enthusiastically ask many questions regarding Japanese fermentation culture during 3-day workshop.

Starting from koji rice malt, we made shoyu, nattou, amazake, soy yogurt, and also tasted various fermented seasonings. 
amazake tasting
making nattou
shio koji (salted rice malt)
tasting miso
Visited sake and shoyu brewery.

Learning how to make miso at miso family-run local miso-maker.

Uda city is the birth place of medicinal herb in Japan's history. We also tasted medicinal plants shojin ryori at Daiganji temple, and went for plant hunting with a local guide.
shojin ryori at Daiganji
plant hunting
Lunch was provided by "Nagino mori", a vegan chef, who prepared various recipes using plenty of fermented seasonings.

20 pages of English text book about Fermentation in Japan. I think no other place in Japan organize such a lesson, deep-into fermentation.


Lunch: Medicinal herb lunch at Daiganji temple
Seminar:Basic knowledge of washoku and fermentation
Lesson 1: Koji & Shio-koji (salted koji malt)
Lesson 2: Soy milk yogurt
Lesson 3: Amazake
DAY 2 
Field work: Shoyu & Sake breweries
Lesson 4: Plant hunting & Medicinal herb liquor
Lesson 5: Miso
Lesson 6: Nattou
Lesson 7: Shoyu (soy sauce)
Lesson 8: Tofu


We can organize this kind of events for a group of people, interested in fermentation (minimum member of participants: 10 persons). Please let me know if you have questions.

Saturday, 21 July 2018

Ama female divers village in Shima Peninshula

Hearing the voices of Ama female divers 

Ama are female divers who go free-diving to catch shellfishes and seafoods like abalones, sea urchins, sea snails.without a breathing apparatus. The origin of ama dates back to 3000 years ago, which was recorded in the Chronicle of Japan.

They are still relying on the ancient methods of fishing until now without using modern technologies. This is to protect and appreciate the natural resources of their ocean.

It is said that ama divers are unique culture, which can be seen only in a part of Korea and in Japan. There are 2000 ama divers in Japan, and among them, half of divers are in the Shima peninsula of Mie prefecture.

Ama can dive into ocean for approximately 1 minute at one breath. They repeat this 20-30 times for one hour. Even 70 year old ladies, who feel difficulty in walking, still work for diving. The old lady said she found better in the sea rather than walking on the land.

Before the free-dive, they set fire in pray for their safety and to ward off evil spirit, even in the mid-summer. Mugwort of butterbur leaves are roasted and used as anti-fogging diving masks.

After 1-2 hours diving, they will get together to have snacks and chat. Although ama is lonely while diving alone in the sea, they always work in a group, so that all can keep eye on each other just in case of emergency. It is said that before, they sometimes witnessed sharks in the sea.

After 2 hours diving,  big abalones are collected.

Ama divers bring their trophies to the port, where the staff of fishery cooperative culcurate the purchase price.

Recommended place to visit in Shima

Sea-Folk Museum in Toba

Founded in 1971, the Sea-Folk Museum preserves over six thousand exhibits about Toba’s ancient fishing traditions and antique fishing equipment. 

Its architecture is also unique, and must-see destination, designed by a Japanese architect, Mr. Hiroshi Naito of Naito Architect & Associates. It was awarded several prizes, including Award of Architectural Institute of Japan by Architectural Institute of Japan.


It produces salt by using only seawater in the ancient method. Recycled wood from houses is used for firewood. Sea water is poured into a kiln and burned for 3 days until the salt is completely crystalized. You can see the process of making sea salt. 

Ama diver's guesthouse "AMARGE"

Ms. Rikako Sato, who became an ama diver 3 years ago, opened a guesthouse in Ijika town of the Shima peninsula. She will take her guests to the ama hut in the following morning, if it is the day of diving.

Thursday, 3 May 2018

making tea utensils in a tea farming village

Located in the high land of Yamato Plateau, Yamazoe village is the largest production area of Yamato green tea in Nara prefecture.

We visited a wood workshop to make our own tea utensils.

In the entrance of the workshop, there are diverse varieties of timbers.

These furnitures are all hand-made.

"Would you like a cup of tea?"

At a home of Yamazoe tea village, drinking tea together is just like a greeting.
When we visit a person in the village, first thing to do is drinking tea.

Then, we go to the workshop to select our own woods to process.

There are too many options to choose one...

First, we adjusted size by using blader.
Then polish,

The last is to put wax on it.

Tea party by using tea board just made.

tea farm in Yamazoe village

Monday, 16 April 2018

[1Day Nara] Eat & Walk Food Tour in Nara, foraging & medicinal plant garden

The history of harvesting medicinal plants dates back to early 7th century, when the first empress Suiko hunted wild herbs in today's uda city, Nara prefecture. This is written in the Chronicle of Japan in 611 AD.

Afterwords, during the ara of Yoshimune Tokugawa, 8th generation of Shogunate government in Edo period, one of the oldest medicinal plant garden was established in O-Uda.

At that time there were 35 traditional pharmacies and 12 medicinal liqor shops in the town. In Uda, since ancient times, traditional knowledge to utilize natural resources had been passed down from generations to generations. Many notable pharmaceutical companies are also initiated in this town. 

How about visiting the birthplace of medicinal plant culture in Japan, and going for harvesting wild edibles?

Japan's oldest medicinal plant garden "Morino herbal garden"

Morino Kudzu honpo, is a kudzu starch maker, also maintaining the Japan's oldest medicinal plant garden. There are 250 kinds of herbal plants, and 6 plants which was originally provided by Tokugawa Shogunate Government are still there. 

Mr. Harano, a garden master explains the highlights of the herbal garden

Foraging on the hill of Matsuyama castle town

Going through forest from Kasuga shrine led us to fantastic view of Matsuyama castle town. 

After 30 minutes walk, you can see awesome scenery from the top of the mountain. 

Here is the wild plant hunting site. 

Warabi, bracken plant

dokudami, (Houttuynia cordata)fish mint
fuki,  (Petasites japonicus) butterbur
mitsuba, (Cryptotaenia japonica); Japanese honewort
uba yuri, Cardiocrinum cordatum), Heartleaf lily

<Foraging tour in Uda>
Visitng Japan's oldest plant garden, foraging on the hill, sansai lunch, tasting medicinal herb liquor.

9:30 -      Meeting at Ouda bus stop
10:00-11:00    Medicinal Plant Garden
11:00-12:00     Foraging
12:30-14:00     Cooking and Lunch time

<min-max participants>    5-20 persons 
<Fee> 5000JPY(including lunch and entrance fee of medicinal plant garden)