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Food Fermentation Tradition in Japan

Photographer: Everett Kennedy Brown


Japanese sake, soy sauce, miso, vinegar and pickles are enjoying a growing popularity around the world. What they all have in common is that they are fermented using a particular mold, called koji, or Aspergillus oryzae. The koji mold is found throughout South and East Asia. Asian cuisines rely on a large repertoire of fermented foods using the koji mold. The tradition of fermenting foods using koji mold is believed to have been introduced to Japan from China in the Kamakura period (1185-1333). Its usage was then developed and expanded as a way to preserve foods stuffs during the winter months. Now, one can find a broad variety of fermented foods distinctive to the various regions of Japan. Having one of the longest living populations in the world, it is commonly believed that the health giving benefits of these fermented foods are a major reason for Japanese longevity.