The Shōgun Effect: A Culinary Adventure into the World of Natto

In the world of culinary adventures, few experiences divide the camp quite as sharply as the first encounter with natto. This peculiar dish, consisting of fermented soybeans, has intrigued and bewildered many outside its native Japan. Perhaps you recall the scene in the drama series Shōgun, where John Blackthorne, with a blend of curiosity and trepidation, samples natto for the first time. Mariko’s cautious prelude, “This may not be for you,” sets the stage for Blackthorne’s candid reaction as he navigates the unfamiliar territory of this “very stinky, possibly spoiled cheese…” like substance.

For those uninitiated, natto might seem like an enigma wrapped in a sticky, stringy mystery. Its texture alone, reminiscent of okra or mashed bananas, topped with a scent that could evoke a blend of coffee notes and a pungent, nutty aroma, makes it a prime candidate for virality on platforms like TikTok, where its unique appearance is a visual feast.

Beyond its intriguing texture and aroma, natto is a staple in Japan, enjoyed by more than half of the population. Often found atop a steaming bowl of rice, it’s accompanied by an assortment of condiments such as green onions, katsuo-bushi (bonito flakes), pickled plums, and a splash of soy sauce. This popular breakfast item is more than just a meal; it’s a nutrient powerhouse, brimming with probiotics, proteins (boasting 1.5 times the amount found in the same weight of egg), and vitamin K2, a boon for bone strength. Notably, natto harbors nattokinase, an enzyme instrumental in cardiovascular health.

The dichotomy of reactions to natto is fascinating. Much like durian, blue cheese, and licorice, natto isn’t universally adored. Described often as an “acquired taste,” it certainly doesn’t conform to everyone’s palate.

As a natto manufacturer based in Boston, I’ve witnessed firsthand the polarized responses it elicits at local Farmers’ Markets. Among the most memorable were two young girls, barely a year and a half old, who sampled our natto. Their reactions could not have been more divergent—one grimaced as if she’d made a grave gastronomic error, while the other delighted in the taste, eagerly returning for more.

This variance in acceptance is not confined to the young. Adults alike find themselves at a crossroads when trying natto for the first time—some immediately dismiss it, while others are captivated, exclaiming, “OMG, this is DELICIOUS!”

For those intrigued enough to venture into the world of natto, we offer fresh batches right here in Arlington, MA. The journey into natto is more than just a taste test; it’s a reminder that sometimes, the most rewarding flavors are those that challenge our initial instincts.