Growing up in Japan, I had always loved fermented foods. From the tangy taste of kimchi to the creamy goodness of yogurt, the unique flavors of amazake, and the zing of sauerkraut, I couldn’t get enough of these delicious treats. One of my favorite fermented foods was natto, a common fermented soybean dish in Japan that you can even find at convenience stores.
After I moved with my family to America at the age of 10, I soon discovered that many Americans were not aware of the foods we eat in Japan, especially this incredible superfood. Well known amongst nutritional scientists, natto is recognized as a single-source superfood. (For those who are interested to learn more, <this research article> in Biochemistry Research International describes its health benefits in detail.)
After attending university in the US I began my career as a research biologist at Harvard Medical School. In my private life, I often made fermented foods for my family and friends. After many people told me how tasty my creations were, it hit me: “Why not combine my love for fermented foods with my passion for bringing people together?”
This was the beginning. I started spending more and more time in my kitchen, experimenting with different fermented foods from around the world, including natto. And as I did, I realized that I wasn’t alone in my kitchen – I had the help of millions of tiny “employees”: the bacteria that transformed basic ingredients into complex healthy foods. These little guys worked tirelessly day and night, fermenting my ingredients and creating the most amazing flavors and nutritional value. And the best part? They seemed very eager to do so!
My husband knew about my love for fermented foods and encouraged me to reach out to a couple he had heard of in Western Massachusetts who had been making natto in their home for over five decades. The husband, an American, had met his Japanese wife when they were young, and they set out to make what became known as the best natto in America. We managed to find the husband’s phone number and called him. We learned that sadly his wife had passed away, and he now only sold his natto to a small group of long-time customers. To our delight, however, he invited us to visit his home and natto kitchen, where he taught us about the history of his business and his methods. He has since become valued advisor and mentor in my natto journey. I learned that he is not only known in the US, but is in fact quite famous amongst the natto producer community in Japan, as the producer of one of the best natto products in the world. Over the past year as we have prepared to launch Aya’s Culture Kitchen he has incredibly graciously shared with us his 50 plus years of experience making natto, and even offered to help furnish us with the equipment necessary to build our own factory.
What began with an amazing phone call set us on a path to making our own natto product. Since then we have had the incredible fortune and honor to visit and tour with some of Japan’s best-known craft natto producers, including in the city of Mito in Ibaraki, known in Japan as the “capital of natto”. In each of these visits we learned additional natto lore and received invaluable advice on how to make fine quality natto. Initial reactions from our Japanese friends in the Boston community is that we have hit upon something very special. We invite you to taste it and tell us what you think.
Anyhow, this is how “Aya’s Culture Kitchen” was born – fueled by my passion for fermentation and the guidance of the wise and experienced “father” of natto in the United States. I’m thrilled to share the fruits of my labor and the joy of fermentation with all of you, and I hope you enjoy my creation!
At Aya’s Culture Kitchen, our mission is to share the authentic taste of Japan with you by introducing natto to the world, thereby helping make the world a healthier place.
We want to spread the word about natto, inspire others to embrace its unique flavor, and enjoy its amazing health benefits. In addition, by sharing delicious natto recipes, we hope to make it easier for more people to appreciate and experience this special food.