Off-the-Eaten Path Food Experience in Japan. "Meet the People and Places behind your Plates! "

Tuesday 4 April 2017

3 days culinary retreat in rural Kyoto: Learning traditional wisdom on food and life

Food is Life

"The life in the old times was painful. What was pain? Busy for surviving everyday."

Village grandmas always say like this. "Busy for living all the time"...

2 hours drive to the north from Kyoto city leads to a small cozy shuraku (village community) of Amaza, located in the hidden valley of Mount Ooe in Fukuchiyama, we had a retreat to experience this, thinking about "living"

Starting from making fermented koji mold, making miso by using home-made koji, miring (sake taste seasoning in Japan), amaze (sweet sake), mochi making(sticky rice ball), processing konjac by using ash, indigo fermentation, and so on.

Local village people also came and talked with us, having dinner together with locally harvested vegetables and sake, and we also visited their daily lives, hunting wild boars or harvesting vegetables....

This experience was valuable time, thinking about livelihoods and foods all the days.

※This program was held in the same place as Indigo Farm Stay:Indigo farm stay; whole living base "meoto", a natural sewing house in a hidden village in Kyoto

Program of the Retreat

Day 1     NT    (Fermentation)soaked rice in water
      (Fermentation)amazake (sweet sake making)
Day 2  AM (Fermentation)steam rice
      PM (Food Processing)making lye from ash to make konjac
      (Fermentation)Indigo fermentation
      NT  (Event)Hot pot party with local people
      (Fermentation)sweet potato koji (fermented food)
Day3   AM   (Fermentation)stirring koji
      (Food Processing)steam land lace green rice
    PM  (Food Processing)yuzu-miso making,bean jam making
                        (Event)Visit to local villagers - wild boar hunter
    NT   (Event)Birthday party
      (Food Processing)soake indigenous beans
Day 4 AM (Food Processing)steam beans
      (Fermentation)rice mold koji is ready!
     PM (Food Processing)baking salt, make miso by using koji and smashed beans


What is fermentation? We learned fundamental subject of fermentation, how Japanese traditional seasonings had been developed and passed down from generation to generation. What is beneficial bacteria and mold to make Japanese washoku's key ingredients.

1. Steam rice

2. put koji mold on steamed rice

3. on the Day 2, the koji mold is gradually stretching its fungal thread on rice

Here is the detail of how to make koji:the art of fermentation: learning how to make koji, for brewing sake

Food Processing 

We learnt how to utilize ash from local grandmas.
On this occasion, we use wooden ash and straw ash to make coagulant for konjac without using Sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3).

boiling ash to make lye
Konjac by using wooden ash was the best.
We were all convinced that granmas were talking about how to differentiate strong lye and weak lye.

When I was a master student of agriculture, I tried to understand by scientific knowledge, how substance react to the environemnt, however, village people all knew the relationship with substances, plants and people, ash and ph, without thinking scientifically, but just feeling by hands and nature. This is the methods people had been inter-related to the world, to the nature.

konjac by using broad leaf tree's wood ash

We could not make konjac well be using scientific Sodium hydrogen carbonate (NaHCO3)

left: konjac by using wooden ash right: by using straw ash

mochi making

Making Miso

Koji mold is ready after 3 days fermentation process

roast salt - in macrobiotic method to make salt more ”yang (positive)” state

steam mizukuguri (land lace variety of soybean)

put miso ball into a bucket.

put sake paste on the top to prevent molding

At leisure....

We also made clothes, and visit to local village people.
stitching on cloth
local villagers caught small wild boar

Time for Meals

Nanakusa gayu (rice poridge using 7 wild plants), irori hot pot, 3 times meals were also all special by using local specialties, while making koji mold, yuzu-miso processing, making lye, konnac, mochi making, and milim... Literally, we were doing yonabe (night pot in Japanese, which stands for working all the night), preparing food for next meals, while processing preservation foods

irori hot pot party with locals

kuwai (arrow-whead, swamp potato / Sagittaria trifolia L. 'Caerulea')
Birthday cake

Visit rural Kyoto to learn traditional livelihood!

Always making something, eating something, concentrating on living. When we make ingredients from scratch, we notice how busy is making a living.

In modern days, we are selling our own times as a labour, and buying times of somebody else to make food ingredients.

We cannot go back to ancient era any more, however, it was absolute pleasure to share times of eating and make a living with somebody else like this retreat for some days.

Thank you for our mates and local village people, sharing this time together, this is unforgettable memory.

We would like to pass down these old livelihoods and organize events again.

Please contact us if interested in village life and traditional knowledge on food and fermentation. Our team will help you to organize various food programs.