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Trivia and Origin of Natto

Natto Tastes Better The More You Stir It?

How many times do you stir natto when you eat it? It is said that the more you stir natto, the tastier it becomes, and this seems to be scientifically true. According to an experiment conducted by the Food Research Institute of the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries in Japan, the amino acids and sweetness components of natto increase with the number of times it is stirred. Amount of amino acids Stir 100 times → 1.5 times Stirred 200 times → 2.5 times More than 300 times → 300 times and the same Amount of sweetening agent Stir 100 times → 2.3 times Stir 200 times → 3.3 times Stirred 400 times → 4.2 times A famous visual artist Kitaoji Rosanjin was also known as a gourmet. In his book Shun-Ka-Shu-To Ryori Oukoku (The Kingdom of Cooking in Spring, Summer, Autumn, and Winter), he wrote, The key to delicious natto is to knead it 400 times until it becomes mushy. Stirring 400 times is a laborious process, but it is worth the time and effort.


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Origin of Natto

There are many theories on the origin of natto. Here are four relatively popular roots.


1. Natto was discovered by Prince Shotoku in the Asuka Period

Around 600, in a place called Warado in present-day Shiga Prefecture, there was a surplus of boiled beans that Prince Shotoku was feeding to his beloved horse, and he could not bear to throw them away, so he wrapped them in straw and hung them on a tree. When he tried it, it was so delicious that people around him learned from Prince Shotoku how to make natto, and it spread.

Prince Shotoku


2. Natto was discovered by Hachimantaro (Minamoto no Yoshiie) and spread throughout the country Legend has it that Hachimantaro was sent from Kyoto in the Heian period (794-1185) to control a rebellion in Oshu (present-day Iwate Prefecture), and on his way there, he opened a bale of rice straw filled with boiled beans on the back of his horse and discovered stringy natto. When he tried it, he found it to be delicious and rich in nutrients, and it is said to have spread to various places where he stopped on his way back to Kyoto from Iwate.

Hachimantaro (Minamoto no Yoshiie)


3. Rice and soybeans were introduced from the Yayoi Period (300 B.C.–300 A.D.) The theory is that natto was born by chance during the Yayoi period, when rice cultivation was introduced from the Chinese continent and soybeans were introduced at the same time. The origin of natto is said to be the spontaneous fermentation of spilled soybeans from the straw that was used to cover the floor of the houses at that time. It is quite possible that people in those days made and ate natto as a source of high-quality protein. 4. People were already eating natto in the Jomon period (14,000 B.C.–300 B.C.) There is a theory that natto may have already been eaten in the Jomon period, before the Yayoi period, when rice cultivation was introduced from the continent. This is because traces of the wild variety of the vine bean have been found on Jomon pottery, indicating that the Jomon people ate soybeans. Although it was before the introduction of rice cultivation and there were no straws, it would not be surprising if they were wrapped in leaves and fermented.


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