Natto – One of the Healthy Food in Japan

Posted June 23rd, 2010 in Food 4 Comments »

This could be one of the weird food you can find around the world…  Natto, fermented soy beans, is a traditional Japanese staple for more than 1,000 years.  Non Japanese people may think it’s a gross-looking food as it has a strong smell, flavor and slippery texture.  But, it is an ultimate health food as its medical benefits are widely recognized recently : some of its beneficial effects are prevention of heart attacks, strokes, cancer, osteoporosis, obesity and intestinal disease caused by pathogens.

How did Japan discover this food??  I remember reading a story of it when I was little.  Long time ago, when samurais are still rolling Japan, a group of samurais were travelling quite a long distance.  They brought some food for the journey, and one of the food was soy beans.  The soy beans were carried in a bag made of some kind of plant.  As it was summer and the climate was pretty hot and humid, the soy beans started to ferment in the bag.  Around lunch time, samurais decided to take a break and they all opened up the food to enjoy.  Then they found out the all soy beans looked strange – smelly, and slimy!  They were so disappointed, but one samurai pinched one bean and put in his mouth.  It turned out to be edible.  “Oh well, we might not be able to make to the destination in this climate and not enough water.  We may die soon…  may as well eat these rotten soy beans.”  They ate up the rotten soy beans.  But, strangely, after eating the beans they felt their body full of energy and strong again.

That was the origin of natto, according to my memory 😀  Now we normally eat natto with tare (sauce), and dress up with Japanese mustard, bonito flakes, mayonnaise, seaweed etc etc.

I like eating natto in the morning – just with freshly cooked steamed rice and miso soup.  This morning I made colourful miso soup with few ingredients including carrot, wakame, konnyaku and tofu.  Can any other food beat this healthy combination?

4 Comments on “Natto – One of the Healthy Food in Japan”

  1. 1 Bishonencam said at 7:51 pm on June 24th, 2010:

    I’ve only tried this once many years ago when I first went to Japan on foreign exchange.
    My host Mother tentatively proposed to me, “This is a traditional Japanese breakfast food called Natto…. Would you like to try some?”
    I said, “For sure!” and grabbed it but before I could start eating it my host Mother stopped me and said, “You may not like it…”
    “But I’d like to try it!” I insisted.
    She finally relented and I started eating. I really liked and to my memory, I didn’t find the taste or texture off-putting.
    But I’d only had two small mouthfuls when my host Mother said, “Ok… That’s enough… You don’t have to finish it….” and took it away from me!
    Maybe she thought I was only being polite and forcing myself to eat it, but I really did like Natto! ^_^

  2. 2 umepontarou said at 8:47 pm on June 24th, 2010:


    That’s a funny story 😀
    She must had a stiff idea of natto being as “smelly” “not likeable” and “no foreign people would like it”.

    I’m actually surprised to know that you liked natto!
    You said you’ve only had eaten natto once – you are not eating it anymore?
    .. maybe it’s not something that you want to buy, I guess?

  3. 3 Bishonencam said at 9:09 pm on June 24th, 2010:

    Yo Ume!

    Y’know, I’ve seen Natto in Maruyu many times but I’ve never thought to buy it!
    Next time I shall buy it and consume it with youthful exuberance!!!

    But yeah, I think my host Mother thought that I wouldn’t like it, but why offer it to me in the first place? 😛

  4. 4 umepontarou said at 9:41 pm on June 24th, 2010:


    Maybe she was curious. Or, she just wanted to show to you the “traditional” Japanese breakfast item 😉

    I’ve never seen foreign people buying natto in Japanese grocery shops 😀

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