History of Natto and Its Relatives (1405-2012)

William Shurtleff, Akiko AoyagiISBN: 978-1-928914-42-6

Publication Date: 2012 Feb. 15

Number of References in Bibliography: 1934

Earliest Reference: 1405

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Brief chronology of natto and its relatives:

1051-1083 – The origin of natto is obscure. According to legend, it was discovered accidentally in northeast Japan by Minamoto (Hachimantaro) Yoshiie when warm, cooked soybeans, placed in a rice-straw sack on the back of a horse, turned into natto. The warmth of the horse helped the fermentation.
1405 Dec. 19 – Natto (itohiki natto) is first mentioned in the dairy of Noritoki Fujiwara; it is called itohiki daizu (“stringy soybeans”).
1450 – The word “natto,” referring to itohiki-natto, is next used in Japan in the Shojin gyorui monogatari. This is a funny story about foods that are depicted as people and a battle for rank between vegetarian and nonvegetarian foods. Natto, called “Natto Taro” or “Natto Taro Itogasane” (the last word meaning “many threads”) is given a high rank.
1690 – The earliest known illustration of a person selling natto appears, along with the 2nd earliest known use of the term “itohiki natto.”
1867 – The word “natto” first appears in English, in A Japanese and English Dictionary, by Jams C. Hepburn.
1889 – “Mito-natto is first sold at Mito railway station in Mito, Ibaraki prefecture, Japan (Toyoda 1986).
1894 – Dr. Kikuji Yabe (of Tokyo University, Japan) gives the earliest known scientific description of natto (first in German, then in English) and of how natto is made commercially. He isolated three Micrococci and one Bacillus from natto, but was unable to determine that those isolates were responsible for the natto fermentation. His article, titled “On the vegetable cheese, natto,” is also the first to refer a natto as a “vegetable cheese,” a long-lived and unfortunate misnomer.
1896 – In “Recent literature on the soja bean,” an article in the American Journal of Pharmacy, Henry Trimble is the first American mention natto.
1906 Aug. – “On the microorganisms of natto,” by S. Sawamura published in a scientific journal in Japan. He found two bacteria in natto. He was the first to isolate Bacillus natto from natto and to give that name to the newly-discovered microorganism, and to show that it was responsible for the natto fermentation.
1906 – Tung rymbai, a close relative of natto from Meghalaya in northeast India, is first mentioned by Singh in a Khasi-English dictionary. This is the earliest known relative of natto to be mentioned.
1912 – The Taisho period (1912-1925) begins in Japan. As new railway lines expanded, linking natto’s homeland in the northeast provinces with the capital at Tokyo, large-scale production and distribution increased – but so did the problems of temperature control, contamination, and product failure
1912 – Dr. Shinsuke Muramatsu of the Morioka College of Agriculture publishes “On the Preparation of Natto” in English. He found that three Bacillus species or strains produced fine natto with strong viscosity and good aroma at 45°C, but that Bacillus No. 1 produced the best product; he recommended its use as
a pure culture. He concluded by giving the first nutritional analysis of fresh natto and of natto that was several days old. Soon Dr. Muramatsu started producing his “College Natto” at the College of Agriculture. His students helped to make and sell it, as a source of income, and it became very popular.
1912 – The Natto Manufacturers Association of Tokyo is founded by six local natto makers.
1919 – Dr. Jun Hanzawa, of Hokkaido University’s Department of Agriculture, published the first of three key reports which helped to bring natto production in Japan out of the “Dark Ages.” Serving simultaneously as a microbiologist, and extension worker, and a pilot plant operator, Dr. Hanzawa began by making a pure-culture bacterial inoculum for natto; this enabled commercial natto manufacturers, for the first time, to discontinue the use of rice straw as a source of inoculum. Secondly, disliking the use of rice straw even as a wrapper, he developed a simple, low-cost method for packing, incubating, and selling natto wrapped in paper-thin sheets of pine wood (kyōgi) or small boxes of pine veneer (oribako). A third important improvement followed shortly; the development of a new incubation room design (bunka muro), which had an air vent on the ceiling and substantially decreased the natto failure rate. These three developments laid the basis for modern industrial, sanitary, scientific natto manufacture. Commercial natto makers filled his classes and he worked as a consultant for them. Like Dr. Muramatsu before him, Dr. Hanzawa sold his “University Natto” from his research lab, promoting it as a rival to cheese. He was given the appellation of “the father of modern natto production.” In 1971 he was given the honor of addressing the emperor of Japan on the subject of natto.
1926 Jan. – The earliest known commercial natto is made in the United States by Nihon Miso Seizosho in Los Angeles, California. Other early commercial natto manufacturers were: 1930 – Higuchi Natto-ten, Los Angeles. 1937 – Yoneuchi Natto Seizo-sho, Los Angeles. 1939? – Harada Tofu, Zakka-ten, Fowler, California. 1951 – Kanai Nissei Shokai, Honolulu, Hawaii.
1930 Jan. 8 – Dorsett and Morse, USDA plant explorers, collect three specimens and take a photo of “String Natto” in Tokyo, Japan. The word “string” (or “strings” or “stringy”) is first used in connection with natto in English.
1933 Nov. – Carey D. Miller, in an article titled “Japanese foods commonly used in Hawaii,” says of natto: “The fermented product is covered with a gray, slimy substance that forms strings or threads when the beans are pulled apart, indicating good quality...”
1947 April – Auguste Chevalier, writing in French, notes that soybeans are used in West Africa to make Soumbara [also spelled Soumbala in later documents], a condiment normally prepared with the seeds of Parkia (the locust bean tree). In 1974 Kay (in Nigeria) states that Sumbala is made from soybeans instead of the usual néré seeds
1952 Nov. 1 – Amaha and Sakaguchi, in a Japanese-language article, state that Bacillus natto is different from Bacillus subtilis in that the former requires the vitamin biotin for growth, whereas the latter does not. Kida et al. prove this even more conclusively in Nov. 1956.
1954 – The Japanese National Natto Association (Zenkoku Nattō Kyodo Kumiai Rengokai) is formed, with headquarters in Tokyo – incorporating the 1912 association. Over the years it becomes an extremely effective organization, greatly benefitting its members.
1961 June – Shizuka Hayashi, gives the first statistics in English on the natto industry and market in Japan. Managing director of the Japanese American Soybean Institute, he states that about 30,000 metric tons of whole soybeans are used in Japan to make natto.
1963 – Bluebell R. Standal of the Dept. of Nutrition, Hawaii Agricultural Experiment Station, is the first Westerner to publish scientific researcher on natto (J. of Nutrition, Nov. p. 279-85).
1963-1964 – In an article titled “Introduction of soyabeans into Abuja [an Emirate in south central Nigeria], J.A. Yuwa writes (in the Samaru Agricultural Newsletter): "The Gwarrin Genge around Diko have discovered that soyabeans can be used for making 'Daddawa' in place of the usual locust bean. The Koros around Ija pound it into powder and use it in place of melon seed to thicken their soup" This is the earliest English-language document seen that contains the word "Daddawa" in connection with soybeans, or states that soybeans are being used to make "Daddawa" in Africa. Soybean daddawa [dawadawa], it is a close relative of natto.
1965 March – Subtilisin, a strong proteolytic enzyme in natto, is first described by Matsubara. It was later found to be quite similar to nattokinase.
1965 April – The first “All-Japan ‘Natto’ Exhibition” is held in Japan, to promote consumer acceptability of natto and to rationalize the natto manufacturing process.
1967 – Bekang, a close relative of natto from Mizoram, in northeast India, is first mentioned by Bose.
1969 Nov. – “Industrial production of soybean foods in Japan,” by Tokuji Watanabe (a paper presented to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization) is the earliest English-language document seen that uses the word “sticky” to describe natto.
1970 – Thua-nao, a close relative of natto from northern Thailand, is first mentioned by Sundhagul et al.
1971 – Korean-style natto (salted natto paste called chungkookjang / ch’onggukchang) is first mentioned by Park and Sung.
1972 – The important idea of the “natto triangle” is introduced by Japanese ethnologist Sasuke Nakao (Ryori no Kigen, p. 118-27). Within this big triangle in Asia, many relatives of Japanese natto are found. In 1962 he was first introduced to kinema in eastern Nepal.
1972 – Herman Aihara is the first to describe how to make natto at home in English.
1975 – In Natto Kenkosho (The Natto Way to Good Health), Teruo Ohta notes that natto is now packaged in polystyrene paper (PSP). This is also the earliest known document to mention yukiwari-natto, made in Japan by mixing itohiki natto with rice koji and salt, then aging the mixture. Or to mention hikiwari natto, made from cracked soybeans.
1976 – “Kenima, ” a misspelling of kinema, is first mentioned by Batra and Millner. “Kirima,” a misspelling of kinema, was first mentioned in 1978 by Hittle.
1977 March – An article titled “Isolation and characterization of four plasmids from Bacillus subtilis,” by Teruo Tanaka et al. in the Journal of Bacteriology is the first to mention plasmids in connection with Bacillus subtilis or with natto. Natto quickly becomes a major player in genetic research worldwide, and such research helps to unravel many of the mysteries of natto’s basic properties. A plasmid is a type of DNA which is separate from the chromosomal DNA and which is capable of replicating independently of the chromosomal DNA.
1978 Oct. – Charles Kendall, founder and owner of Kendall Food Co. (Brookline Village, Massachusetts) and a devotee of macrobiotics, is the earliest known Caucasian maker of commercial natto in the United States. He continued to make natto (as well as mochi and amazake) for more than 30 years.
1980 – Hawaijar, a close relative of natto from Manipur, in northeast India, is first mentioned by Bilasini Devi et al.
1982 April – Martin Halsey, founder and owner of Soy Joy (Nyon, Switzerland), is the earliest known Caucasian maker of commercial natto in Europe. He is
an American by birth.
1982 – Kinema, a close relative of natto from eastern Nepal, is first mentioned by Park.
1983 May – An article by Toshio Hara et al. in the journal Agricultural and Biological Chemistry is the first to show the remarkable circular illustration of a plasmid.
1985 – Akuni, a close relative of natto from Nagaland in northeast India, and Pe-bout, a close relative of natto from the Shan states of Burma, are both first mentioned by Martin – in the Wall Street Journal! He notes that ethnologist Shuji Yoshida of Osaka's national museum has developed a "natto triangle" theory; he mentioned these foods in Japanese in connection with that theory. Akuni is now generally spelled “Aakhone.”
1987 Oct. – Nattokinase, a fibrinolytic enzyme in natto, is first mentioned by Sumi et al. Nattokinase was discovered in 1980 by Dr. Hiroyuki Sumi while working at the Chicago University Medical School.
1994 – Kinema (originally from eastern Nepal) is reported to be popular among the Lepchas who call it Satlyangser and among the Bhutias who call it bari (Sarkar, Tamang, Cook and Owens).
2001 April – An article by M. Kaneki et al. in the journal Nutrition is the first to point out that natto is one of the most concentrated sources of vitamin K1 (MK-7). Conclusion: "... natto consumption may contribute to the relatively lower fracture risk in Japanese women."
2003 April – An article by Kasahara and Kato, published in the prestigious journal Nature (London) confirms that PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), a substance discovered in 1979, can be classified as a vitamin. More specifically, it is a new B vitamin, joining niacin / nicotinic acid (vitamin B3) and riboflavin (vitamin B2) – first new vitamin in 55 years. The most concentrated known source of PQQ is natto.
2005 – Synonyms of kinema (originally from eastern Nepal) in nearby local languages are reported to be Kinemba (Limbu). Hokuma (Rai). Bari (Bhutia in Sikkim). Satlyangser (Lepcha in Sikkim).
2008 – Sieng, a close relative of natto from Cambodia, is first reported by Tanaka. Interestingly, the name of the soybean in Cambodia has long been sandek seng (Brenier 1910; Petelot 1952).
2009 – Peruyyan, a close relative of kinema from Arunachal in northeast India, is first reported by Tamang.
2010 – Dr. Jyoti Tamang of Sikkim proposes a new “Kinema – Natto – Thua-nao triangle” (or KNT triangle) which is more complete and more accurate than the “natto triangle” proposed in 1972 by Dr. Sasuke Nakao.
The many names natto / kinema:
bekang or bekang-um
cheonggukjang or cheonggug-jang
chungkok-jang or chung kok jang
chung kook jang or chungkookjang
chung-kook-jang or chungkook-jang
chungkukjang or chung kuk jang
itohiki natto
pe-bout or pe bout
pepok or pe-pok
pepoke or pe-poke
tuanao or tua’nao
In West Africa, relatives of natto now
    made from soybeans:
dawa-dawa or dawadawa
néré or nèrè or nere
Search engine keywords:
History of Kinema
History of Thua-nao
History of Aakhone
History of Bekang
History of Chungkokjang
History of Hawaijar
History of Peruyyan
History of Sieng
History of Tungrymbai
History of Bari
History of Satlyangser
Bibliography of Natto.
Bibliography of Kinema
Bibliography of Thua-nao
Chronology of Natto
Chronology of Kinema
Chronology of Thua-nao
Timeline of Natto
Timeline of Kinema
Timeline of Thua-nao

Click here to download the full text to open and read book History of Natto and Its Relatives (1405-2012)