Village to Table Stories

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

Village Life





Wednesday, 12 August 2020

Natural dye and cooking from Kihada (Amur cork) tree

Kihada (amur cork tree) is Rutaceae, citrus family of plants used as traditional herbal medicine in Japan. When it's cut down, it smells like orange peel. Rainy season (June to July) is the best season to process kihada, as it absorbs moisture and thus it's easier to peel of the bark.

Nara is one of the biggest production sites of kihada. The tradition dates back to Nara period 1300 years ago, when shugendo (Japanese traditional religion of mountain worship) was established. Kihada was used by shugendo monks to treat stomach ache. The yellow color extracted from kihada tree is vivid and remarkable, which has been believed to have anti-macrobial effects and to ward off bad spirits. In fact, the yellow substance is found to be berberine, a sort of alkaloid, which has anti-bacterial effects and lowers blood pressure. 


Natural dye

The bark can be used for natural dye.
It's originally so yellow that there's no need to use color fixing mordant, just boiling the bark for 20 min is enough to have vivid yellow color.

Dyeing linen clothes.

Cotton masks


Not only barks but also leaves, roots, and the fruits can also be utilized. The leaves can be used for making tea, and the fruits taste like Japanese pepper sansho, unique spice in Japan. That can be used for honey mead, preserved with olive oil, soy koji, verger, salt and so on.
Ainu people (ethnic group in Hokkaido) also use fruits of kihada. They pick the fruits when it's half black, half fresh green, and hang it on the eaves till it's ripen (black). The fruits are believed to have anti-inflammatory effect and Ainu people use it as cough drop by boiling with brown sugar. 
Soap, ointment
The bark can be also used for making soap and ointment. It's good to treat bruise or insect bites.
making ointment画像1
Kihada is versatile, used for multiple treatments.
In Nara, processing kihada is a seasonal tradition during early summer. There are many farmers processing the tree, and volunteers are recruited.

Traditionally, only bark has been used, and rest parts are thrown away during the process. Now, there are some trials to utilize the core part for wood works, leaves for making tea, and fruits for spice. Its potential would be unfolded. 

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Natural plant dye with traditional cooking pot

Today, I learned how to dye with Ruri-san, who taught me how to dye in Southeast Asia.

Ruri Kitadai's blog "Travel and Colors" (Japanese only)

Collecting plants while listening to stories about how to make mordant liquid and the wisdom of textiles and plants from Asian countries.



Strain the mugwort through a colander and place the cloth in the dye solution; simmer for 20 minutes. As soon as it boils, the water overflows, so it is difficult to maintain the heat at low heat. I need to change the charcoal material at the beginning, middle and end of the cooking as same as the Okudosan cooking. The same as stewing, you have to turn off the heat and let it soak until it cools down so that it will gradually soak through.

(Silk can be dyed as it is because of its animal protein, but hemp and cotton have been pre-treated with Kureju (Japanese soup). There are many different ways to prepare the groundwork for dyeing in different countries, so it is interesting to think about dyeing folklore. (It's interesting to think about dyeing folklore because there are many different ways to prepare the groundwork in different countries.

Translated with (free version)

Abeno-mask looks nice when it is dyed

Abenomask is disassembled

I made galette with buckwheat flour for lunch. This is difficult. If it's not spread thin, it's just a crepe. Topped with sesame seeds from the garden, arugula, parsley and sprinkles.


Making kakishibu persimmon juice for natural dye

Yamanobe no michi and kaki persimmon cultivation

Yamanobe ancient trail runs along the eastern edge of the Nara Basin. Persimmon fields are dotted around the trail with full of ancient tombs with keyhole-shaped mounds. 

Actually, Nara Prefecture is the second largest production site of persimmons (kaki) in Japan, and along the Yamanobe trail, the Tonegaki and Hiratane species are well grown. However, did you know that more than 80% of the persimmons are thrown away?

Only one persimmon per branch can be harvested, and the remaining 3/4 of the fruit is thinned-out. This process takes one hour per tree. Persimmon farmers are aging, and they tend to give up producing kaki due to the lack of labor and the high shipping prices of persimmons despite of low income. They are not able to hold back.

We help thinning kaki, and received green persimmons in return, and make persimmon juice, kakishibu.

A green persimmon is pounded with a stone mortar and pestle and made kakishibu (fermented persimmon juice).
One is for freshly squeezed persimmon tannin and the other is for aged persimmon tannin.

Raw squeezed persimmon tannin is cooked in a cauldron and the dyeing color is extracted.

In case of freshly pressed persimmon juice, the color turned creamy.

How does the color change when it will be fermented?

Ikkanbari, handicraft using kakishibu persimmon juice

Next day, squeezed persimmon juice started bubbling. It seems like doburoku, fermented rice alcohol.

We need to keep stiring for 10 days, then, filtered. The liquid will be fermented and aged for at least 1 year. Longer is better.

This juice is made in 3 years ago. It got dark brown.

Tuesday, 18 February 2020

Visit small-scale fermented food manufacturers in Mikawa Aichi prefecture

Fermentation in Mikawa, Aichi prefecture

Aichi is now famous for a major producer of cars, Toyota company, and also steels, but actually, it is also cluster area of food producers. Mikawa, Aichi prefecture is one of the best places to produce koji rice mold. There are many breweries of fermented seasonings such as soy sauce, miso, vinegar sake and mirin. Indeed, Mikawa can be said to be a fermentation district.

The reasons why there are so many fermented food manufacturers in Mikawa are:
- good climate
- blessed with nature (mountain, water sources and ocean)
- development of shipping industry in Edo period 17th century
- 5th biggest sake production site

Traditionally, sake was transported and sold in Edo (current Tokyo). Sake residues are recycled to make kasu-zuke (sake lee pickle), vinegar, and amazake (milky sweet sake).

It was really suitable for shipping companies to transport food products from Mikawa to Edo and to Osaka, since it is conveniently located in the middle of Japan in-between Edo(east) and Osaka(west), and compared to Osaka port, the tide flow is stable in Mikawa.

Mizkan vinegar factory along the canal

Hacho miso

Hatchō Miso has been made in Okazaki area for a long time since 1645. It's made from just soy bean and salt without using rice or wheat mold, which is very unique to Aichi Prefecture.

Steamed soybeans are mixed with bean koji (fermented soy) and formed into miso balls. The miso ball koji are mixed with salted water and put into a big wooden barrel to be fermented for 2 years.

The unique point of Hacho miso is to use around 500 river stones with a weight of 3 tons are put on top in conical shaped mounds, after sealing the miso ball into the wooden barrels.

There are two company in Okazaki to produce Hacho miso until now, and there is factory tours to learn about this unique miso ball fermentation culture in Aichi.

You can taste Hacho miso in the restaurant. The flavor is very thick and dense, and it goes well with tonkatsu miso and also oden.

Mikawa mirin

Mirin (sweet sake) is an essential condiment used in Japanese cuisine. The alcohol content is approximately 14%, it's sweet but no sugar added, and the sweetness comes purely from the process of fermentation (saccharification by koji rice mold). The ingredients are just simply three: mochi rice, koji and shochu (diluted sake).

The history dates back to 600 years ago.  Mirin became popular among especially women, since mirin is sweeter and with less alcohol than sake. It's used for teriyaki sauce (sweet sauce for stewed chicken, yakitori), for boiled fish, and sometimes small amount of mirin can be also used instead of sugar. 

I have visited Sumiya Bunjo Shoten and Sugiura Mirin. Both are family-run small-scale mirin producers, which produce

Sumiya Bunjo Shoten

Sugiura Mirin


Japanese vinegar, called "su" is made from rice. Can you imagine how rice will be vinegar? In Mikawa, there is a great vinegar museum, where you can learn the activities of microbes, which convert sugar into alcohol, and alcohol into vinegar.

Mitsukan, a large scale vinegar manufacturer was once a sake brewery.

Miyamoto koji mold producer

Koji (fermentation starters, comprising aspergillus or other microorganisms cultured on the surface of soybeans, rice, or barley grains) plays an essential role in the fermentation process.

Miyamoto koji ten produces multiple types of koji all year around (rice koji, mugi wheat koji, bean koji). It also produces miso during winter season from December to March.

Fermentation learning

Aichi is the perfect place to learn about fermentation culture and Japanese seasonings. There are many family-run traditional producers of miso, tamari shoyu, mirin, sake and vinegar, which keep their traditional way of brewing.

Please visit Aichi and learn Japanese knowledge of fermentation.