A natural miso and soy factory that is always full of beans

Soy boy: Kazuhiko Morita stirs a giant vat of moromi at Yamaki Jozo, a plant in Saitama that produces soy sauce, tofu, miso and more using natural methods. | KENJI MIURA

A natural miso and soy factory that is always full of beans
by Nancy Singleton Hachisu posted on The Japan Times on April 29, 2014

Although rice is certainly the king of Japanese food, soybeans are the queen. Small makers of miso, soy sauce and tofu dot the landscape of Japan, but blink once and you will notice that the local shops are closing up as supermarket culture takes over daily life.

Up in the hills above our northern Saitama town lies Yamaki Jozo, an organic miso/soy sauce/tofu/natto/pickle company surrounded by prolific vegetable fields and thoughtfully designed Japanese gardens. It is the ultimate wabi-sabi experience. But it is not just for the elegance of this so-called “soy sauce plant” that I take all visitors there (foreign and Japanese alike). What Yamaki offers is myriad, and only depends on time and the emptiness of your stomach.

When we have advance notice, I book seats at its weekend tofu restaurant, Shisuian. The kaiseki multi-course lunch is a steal at ¥3,024, and the bentō (boxed lunches) only ¥1,543. Otherwise we just hop in the car willy-nilly and cruise up the winding road to the Kamikawa-machi hills, about 15 minutes from our farmhouse. After sampling the various tofus (silk, cotton, yuzu, sesame, yuba), misos (inaka, brown rice, barley, soy bean) and pickles (too many to list!), we climb the stairs from the retail shop and peer through the glass at the monstrous cedar barrels of soy sauce left to ferment over the course of two years. If we are lucky, product-planning manager Kazuhiko Morita will be around to dole out a taste of the deeply primal soy-sauce mash (moromi). According to Morita, it’s not for sale, since “it would be like selling our soul.”

Upstairs is where Yamaki holds workshops and demonstrations in making miso and tofu and pressing soy sauce, as well as tastings. (I occasionally take my little English-immersion preschool students there for a tour, conveniently conducted in English.)

Yamaki Jozo is all about transparency, and the current plant was built with the visitors who would cross through its halls, all wanting to see exactly how the soy sauce, miso and tofu are produced, firmly in mind. But more than that, Yamaki built the plant thinking of the restful feeling we would get as we wind our way along the path leading toward the whitewashed buildings, or when we turn a corner and come across ikebana moments upstairs. Here is Japan at its best: delicious wares, responsibly grown organic ingredients and a pristine setting.

I sometimes sneak away for a ¥957 curry lunch or udon set prepared by the excellent cooks who tend the Yamaki shop (and I’m not usually a fan of curry or udon). There are three veteran ladies who are in charge of the shop, and I often ask for their sage advice in pickling or using kōji (mold spores). They are the smiling (and knowledgeable) faces of the shop.
And I never leave empty handed. Yamaki products are my favorite presents to take when I go overseas; the packaging has that elegant aesthetic sense one often associates with Japan (but is sometimes hard to find), and what is inside is absolutely top quality.

Although Yamaki is several generations old, it was the current president, Tomio Kitani, who, inspired by veteran natural farmer Kazuo Suka, committed to using 100 percent organic soybeans about 40 years ago. Historically the miso and soy sauce fermenting was done in Honjo, a neighboring city; and the tofu-making operation was located in Kamiizumi-mura, the neighboring mountain village that was recently merged with our town, Kamikawa-machi. Tofu (and soy sauce) rely on the best water available, so being near the mountains from which the clear spring water is trucked was essential. Yamaki built the current plant on the site of the tofu operation in 2002 and moved all of the soybean-related activities up to the Kamiizumi-mura hills.

Kitani views organic farming as normal — the natural way to grow food. Consequently, he feels an innate responsibility to make traditional Japanese products the way they have been made for generations and to shun modern shortcuts. And that sense of history is exactly why Kitani is aligned with the venerable House of Shijo in support of the ancient food traditions of Japan. Tsukasake Shijo, the 41st-generation Shijo head of this very old Kyoto family, comes out to Yamaki Jozo twice a year for the ceremonial rice planting and harvesting, and invites Kitani each year for an audience with the Emperor to present him with soy sauce.

The vast majority of Japanese people consume soy sauce produced from defatted soy grits rather than whole soybeans and do not even know the difference. Kitani puts the current food culture into perspective with these apt words: “It has taken only 70 years to destroy a 1,000-year-old food tradition.”

Put like that, people might want to think twice before reaching for mass-produced soy sauce over artisanal, family-made soy sauce — especially now that washoku (Japanese cuisine) has been designated as an Intangible Cultural Heritage by Unesco. Perhaps we should actually live up to the honor.

Original Article: The Japan Times


The Beauty Benefits of Pineapple

Last Updated: Mar 12, 2014 | By LaMont Jones, Jr.

With its distinctive prickly skin, sprouty green leaves and sweet yellow flesh, the pineapple is a symbol of hospitality as well as a tasty treat. Like many fruits and vegetables, it can be just as nourishing on the body as in the body. Eating mineral-rich pineapple pulp, drinking the juice, and applying both to the body have multiple beauty benefits.

Clearer Complexion
The high vitamin C and bromelain content of pineapple juice make it an effective acne treatment. Bromelain is an enzyme that softens skin and has been used for hundreds of years in South and Central America to fight inflammation and swelling. Drinking pineapple juice helps the body synthesize collagen, which helps skin stay firm and flexible, while vitamin C and amino acids aid in cell and tissue repair. For a double dose of skin nourishment, cut a pineapple in half and refrigerate one half. Scoop the fruit out of the other half, juice it, drink the juice and gently rub the inside of the pineapple skin on your face, avoiding the eye area. After a few minutes, rinse your face thoroughly with tepid water. Repeat two or three days later with the other pineapple half.

Body and Feet Benefits
The same nutrients that make pineapple good for the face also make it beneficial to the rest of your skin. For a gently exfoliating body polish, peel a fresh pineapple and cut the flesh into four wedges. As you shower, rub the wedges all over your body, followed by a cleansing soap and a thorough rinse. A pineapple foot treatment can help slough away flaky and calloused skin, leaving feet smoother and brighter. Start with one-half cup of chopped pineapple, then chop and mix in one-half peeled lemon, one-half unpeeled apple, one-quarter peeled grapefruit, one teaspoon of salt and two teaspoons of anise extract. Rub the mixture all over your feet, giving extra attention to heels, as the skin there tends to harden easily. Wrap your feet in plastic or tie plastic bags over them. After 20 or 30 minutes, remove and rinse. The salt and fruit enzymes help exfoliate and soften skin while the anise — a licorice extract — soothes, fights swelling and contains natural healing agents.

Healthy Nails
Brittle and dry nails may signal a vitamin A deficiency, while cracked and split nails may suggest your body’s deficiency in B vitamins. Pineapple fruit and juice are good sources of both, another reason to consume them and apply them topically. Hands dry out easily because they are used so much, making nail cuticles more prone to dehydration. Dry cuticles cause unsightly nail beds that are also more susceptible to cracking and infection-causing bacteria and fungi. A natural softening treatment for your cuticles is a blend of two tablespoons of pineapple juice and an egg yolk, which counters the drying effect of the enzyme bromelain in pineapple. Apply the mixture to your cuticles and allow it to sit for about five minutes. Use a cotton swab to push your softened cuticles back to their nail beds, then rinse your fingers off with warm water and follow with hand cream. This treatment is just as beneficial to toenails as fingernails.

Tips and Cautions
Generally, fruits and vegetables that nourish skin also indirectly promote nail and hair health, and pineapple is no exception. When using pineapple in a mask or other face product, avoid eye contact because irritation can occur. Pregnant women with gestational diabetes should restrict their intake of pineapple and its juice. Drinking juice from an unripened pineapple can cause diarrhea. Rather than commercial pineapple juice, choose freshly extracted juice because it retains more of the fruit’s nutrients, and heat used in commercial processing can destroy the bromelain. For more of pineapple’s valuable fiber content, eat the fruit rather than just drinking the juice.

Original Article: LIVESTRONG.COM


Silk mill took Japan to global level

By Ayako Mie, posted on The Japan Times on May 5, 2014 

The historic Tomioka Silk Mill in Gunma Prefecture and its related facilities are expected to become UNESCO World Heritage sites next month.

The redbrick factory from the Meiji Era will be the 18th World Heritage property in Japan if UNESCO officially accepts its endorsement by the International Council on Monuments and Sites, or ICOMOS, at the World Heritage Committee meeting from June 15 to 25 in Doha, Qatar.

Here is some information about the silk mill’s history.

What are the sites being endorsed by ICOMOS?

The Tomioka Silk Mill will be the first industry-related heritage site in the nation. ICOMOS said the mill complex played a significant role in innovating the Japanese silk industry at the end of the 19th century.

The recommendation includes the mill, the former residence of silkworm egg farmer Tajima Yahei, the Takayama-sha Sericulture School and Arafune Cold Storage, which was a repository for silkworm eggs. It is the only factory built by the Meiji government to be preserved in nearly its original form, according to the Tomioka Municipal Government.

The government decided to officially recommend the four sites to UNESCO in 2012.
Churches and castles often make the World Heritage list, but UNESCO started putting more emphasis on industrial sites in the 1990s, including the Agave Landscape and Ancient Industrial Facilities of Tequila in Mexico in 2006, and the Bahrain pearling trail in 2012.

When was the mill built?

The mill was built in 1872. It is Japan’s oldest modern silk reeling factory and is a symbol of Japan’s industrialization in the 19th century.

Silk became one of the nation’s most important exports after the Tokugawa shogunate dropped its policy of isolationism in 1854. Demand for Japanese silk surged after European silkworm stocks were ravaged by disease and Chinese silk exports were crimped by political instability in China.

According to the Japanese Association for Conservation of Architectural Monuments, demand was so high that silk accounted for over 80 percent of Japan’s exports in 1863. But that astounding figure ended up compromising its quality as demand surpassed supply, damaging the reputation of Japanese manufacturers.

After the Meiji Restoration in 1867, the government embarked on a modernization drive to catch up with the West. As part of its business strategy, the government built the Tomioka Silk Mill to serve as a model facility for quality improvement. This involved introducing state-of-the-art machinery from France.

How was the town of Tomioka chosen?

The Meiji government commissioned Paul Brunat, a silk inspector at the Yokohama office of Lyon-based wholesaler Hecht, Lilienthal and Co., to find a site for the model silk mill in 1870. Brunat picked Tomioka because the town already had a booming silk industry and immediate access to such nearby coal mining towns as Takasaki and Yoshii, which would provide most of it energy needs.

What are the buildings like?

The buildings were designed by Auguste Bastien, a Frenchman who was involved in building the Yokosuka Ironworks.
The factory occupies about 5.5 hectares and consists of about 120 buildings, including cocoon warehouses, a boiler room, buildings for cocoon-drying, silk-reeling, and re-reeling, plus dormitories and an official residence for the French employees.The buildings were built in a mix of Japanese and Western styles — framed with wood, walled with red bricks and roofed with traditional Japanese tiles.

Its filature — where the spinning was done — occupied about 1,680 sq. meters and was 12.1 meters high, making it one of the largest in the world at that time. It was equipped with 300 reeling basins, overshadowing the Maebashi Silk Filature, which had 12, and the Tsukiji Silk Filature, which had 60, according to “Technology Change and Female Labour in Japan,” published by the Japan External Trade Organization.

How was the plant run?

The plant had more than 400 female workers who were guided by French engineers brought in by Brunat. But the government at first had a hard time recruiting local women because of a rumor that foreign engineers would suck out their blood. The head of the factory, Atsutada Odaka, had his daughter, Yu, put to work at the mill in order to squelch the rumor.

Trained by French experts, the raw silk produced there won a prize at the 1873 Vienna World Exposition, and the Tomioka mill became known worldwide. Some of the women passed what they had learned to privately owned silk factories across Japan after leaving Tomioka.

What were the working conditions like?

Despite the sweatshop descriptions that crop up in the 1925 novel “Joko Aishi” (roughly, “the sad history of female workers in spinning factories”), the workers at Tomioka seem to have been treated relatively well by the management.
According to the Japanese Association for the Conservation of Architectural Monuments, they worked about eight hours a day and had Sunday off. The factory had two French doctors and eight hospital rooms, and also covered the workers’ medical expenses, food and lodging.

Was it making a profit?

Not really. The factory was constantly in the red partly because the salaries of the non-Japanese, including Brunat, were high. It is also said that the turnover rate was high, which often left the factory with a shortage of skilled labor.

In 1876, the factory started generating a surplus partly because all the high-salaried foreigners left at the end of 1875.

When did it become private?

To upgrade the quality of the raw silk and manage the factory more efficiently, the government sold the mill to the Mitsui conglomerate in 1893. Ownership was then transferred to Hara Co. in 1902 and then to Katakura Industries Co., the largest silk reeling company in Japan.

The Tomioka Silk Mill contributed to the economy during and after World War II but was closed in 1987 as the use of kimono plummeted and cheaper silk started flowing in from China following the normalization of diplomatic relations with Japan in 1972.

In 2005, the government designated Tomioka Silk Mill as a historical site and transferred it to the city of Tomioka.

Original Article: The Japan Times


Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women

Released on EurekAlert! On April 8, 2014

Regular aerobic exercise boosts memory area of brain in older women
Twice weekly routine may help to slow down advance of dementia, say researchers

Regular aerobic exercise seems to boost the size of the area of the brain (hippocampus) involved in verbal memory and learning among women whose intellectual capacity has been affected by age, indicates a small study published online in the British Journal of Sports Medicine.

The hippocampus has become a focus of interest in dementia research because it is the area of the brain involved in verbal memory and learning, but it is very sensitive to the effects of ageing and neurological damage.

The researchers tested the impact of different types of exercise on the hippocampal volume of 86 women who said they had mild memory problems, known as mild cognitive impairment – and a common risk factor for dementia.

All the women were aged between 70 and 80 years old and were living independently at home.

Roughly equal numbers of them were assigned to either twice weekly hour long sessions of aerobic training (brisk walking); or resistance training, such as lunges, squats, and weights; or balance and muscle toning exercises, for a period of six months.

The size of their hippocampus was assessed at the start and the end of the six month period by means of an MRI scan, and their verbal memory and learning capacity was assessed before and afterward using a validated test (RAVLT).

Only 29 of the women had before and after MRI scans, but the results showed that the total volume of the hippocampus in the group who had completed the full six months of aerobic training was significantly larger than that of those who had lasted the course doing balance and muscle toning exercises.

No such difference in hippocampal volume was seen in those doing resistance training compared with the balance and muscle toning group.

However, despite an earlier finding in the same sample of women that aerobic exercise improved verbal memory, there was some evidence to suggest that an increase in hippocampal volume was associated with poorer verbal memory.

This suggests that the relationship between brain volume and cognitive performance is complex, and requires further research, say the authors.

But at the very least, aerobic exercise seems to be able to slow the shrinkage of the hippocampus and maintain the volume in a group of women who are at risk of developing dementia, they say.

And they recommend regular aerobic exercise to stave off mild cognitive decline, which is especially important, given the mounting evidence showing that regular exercise is good for cognitive function and overall brain health, and the rising toll of dementia.

Worldwide, one new case of dementia is diagnosed every four seconds, with the number of those afflicted set to rise to more than 115 million by 2050, they point out.

Original Article released:

Link Cited on: LINK de DIET

Carp streamers

Picture of the Day Apr. 11, 2014 on JAPANTODAY

(AP Photo/Eugene Hoshiko)

Colorful carp streamers flutter in the air at the bottom of Tokyo Tower, ahead of the Children’s Day national holiday on May 5.




Useful Recipe Books for Beauty and Health Available at KindleStores!

We have added the following recipe books useful for our beauty and health to our book list on Kindle Store. Please check them out!

■ Teriyaki Recipes  (English ・ Japanese)
■ Rice Recipes  (English ・ Japanese)
■ Menopause Recipes for Health and Beauty  (English Only)
■ Sprouted Brown Rice Diet Recipes  (English Only)

What makes our body is what we eat.
Why not review our diet for our beauty and health.

We eat every day, three times.
Richly varied recipes that are easy to cook tasty meals
enable us to have happy time with family and friends!

Please make great use of those recipes in your everyday life!

「Teriyaki Recipes」

「Teriyaki Recipes – Japanese Version」

「Rice Recipes」

「Rice Recipes – Japanese Version」

「Menopause Recipes for Health and Beauty」

「Sprouted Brown Rice Diet Recipes」

April, New Start!

It is such a fresh, brand new start when a new school year and a new fiscal year begin in Japan. Many people make it a rule to turnover a new leaf in whatever they are engaged in. It is a good timing to set up new goals to achieve.

It’s certainly anxious when taking the very first step into a new situation, but strangely, we are quite sure that we will be able to discover a new aspect of ourselves.

Wish you all good luck!

We’ll continue to share much information useful with you.

Quote of the day

でも人生で迎えるエンディングは どれも
単なる 新しい始まりでしかない。


The Iskandar Malaysia Project: A Model for Asia and the Future?

I had a chance to visit Johor the other day which is a region in the southernmost tip of the Malay peninsula. It is an area currently in the middle of a huge, comprehensive urban development project called Iskandar Malaysia (the Iskandar Regional Development Authority (IRDA) is a Malaysian Federal Government statutory body).

Iskandar Malaysia covers a land size of 2,217 ㎢ which is three times the size of Singapore and it is easily accessible by bridge from Singapore.

This development project began in 2006 with an announcement by the Malaysian government and it is now is a massive project being undertaken with Singapore. The Malaysia-Singapore Joint Ministerial Committee for Iskandar Malaysia (JMCIM) discusses proposals for the High Speed Rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore, the Singapore-Johor Bahru Rapid Transit System (RTS), and other joint ventures between Malaysia and Singapore.

Despite such extensive development, whenever I have passed through this area in a taxi, all I have seen so far in 2014 is a lot of worksites and fields of palm trees. The city of Johor Bahru is small and is lined with high-rise buildings on the opposite shore. It’s the kind of city where you sense that life moves at a slower pace than larger cities.

Singapore view from Johor Bahru.  My flight to Johor departed around 7 a.m. from Subang (Kuala Lumpur) and took less than an hour. Seats were occupied by business passengers. If the High Speed Rail (HSR) between Kuala Lumpur and Singapore is completed successfully by 2020, it will take less than an hour and a half to get to the Iskandar area by train.

The vision is to create a strong and sustainable metropolis of international standing, and for Iskandar Malaysia to be the first choice for investment, work, living, and recreation. To achieve this, five flagship zones from A to E have been designated as key focal points and are expected to develop into targeted growth sectors.

Flagship A: Central business and financial district.
(Johor Bahru city centre)

Flagship B: Education, medical and tourism districts,
(Nusajaya) Johor new state administrative centre.

Flagship C:
Distribution center focusing on port and marine services.
(Western Gate Development)

Flagship D:
Industrial and manufacturing hub
(Eastern Gate Development)

Flagship E:
Distribution center focusing on airport services.
(Senai) A hub for information and communications technology.

(Source: http://www.iskandarmalaysia.com.my/our-development-plan) 

I visited the education district called “EduCity” in Flagship zone B which invites foreign education institutions to set up in the zone. Marlborough College, one of the U.K.’s prestigious schools famously attended by Princess Catherine, opened its first overseas school in this zone in 2012. Approximately 50% of students live in Singapore and go to school by bus, so you can imagine how close Singapore is to EduCity.

Students from four to eighteen years old study on a 90-acre campus
with boarding school from eight years old and accommodation for teachers.

The campus is just like a scene from a Western film;
the only difference being that it’s very hot in Malaysia.

Malaysia expects Singapore’s economic bloc to expand to the Malay Peninsula with its vast areas of land and competitive labor costs as an advantage. In 2005 before the project started, GDP per capita for Iskandar Malaysia was about USD 14,790-half of Singapore’s which was about USD 30,000. This is expected to rise to USD 31,000 by 2025.

However, because Singapore believes that it is better to build ties with Iskander Malaysia to become more competitive internationally and prevent the flow of foreign investment into other emerging countries in Asia, it recommends that this region be used by foreign-affiliated companies based in Singapore. If everything goes to plan, Iskandar Malaysia may become a blueprint for Asia and the distribution of economic power in this region may change in the near future.

As a member of Sugawara Institute, I am concerned about environmental issues surrounding this project. The Malaysian government is promising a reduction in CO2 emissions of 40% compared to 2005 by the year 2020 and, in particular, wants Iskandar Malaysia to be a model for a sustainable low carbon metropolis in Asia.
And this is where Japanese environmental technology takes the spotlight!

A Japan-Malaysia collaborative research project on “Development of Low Carbon Society Scenarios for Asia” has begun with a research team that consists of multidisciplinary researchers from both countries. The challenge has begun in Iskandar Malaysia for infrastructure and architecture that brings to fruition a low carbon society.

Although there is an energy to life here in Malaysia which I can’t experience in Japan, heavy traffic jams are a daily event, construction works are everywhere, and I worry constantly about the impact of air pollution and waste gases on the environment. I can only hope that Japanese environmental technology will come to the rescue as its use becomes more widespread throughout Asia.

Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute