塩 Shio


We cannot live without salt. Just like water, salt is absolutely necessary for living things. To secure salt is a matter of life and death for all human beings. When the Japanese began to live in groups for agriculture, a lot of salt needed to be ensured and several methods were invented to acquire it.


1) using a pottery

Sea water in the pottery is heated and evaporated. Many potteries used for this purpose have been found throughout Japan, although I am not sure that the potteries in the photo were actually one of them.

2) burning algae

When algae containing sea water are dried and burned, salt which is non-flammable remains in the ash. Although this way seems to be a bit too primitive, they could gain much salt and this method had been widely used until the 8th century.


3) salt field

This method was invented in the 7th century and gradually became common. Water is drawn in two ways:

  1. ) by hand
  2. ) using high and low tide (water is introduced into the field during the high tide and then the gate is closed during the low tide)

Since the 1970s, ion exchange membrane has been mainly used. However natural salt with the abundant mineral obtained by traditional ways attracts many consumers even today.

Fermentation and Salt

Salt is the oldest seasoning in human history. Not only seasoning, it can also conserve food. If there is salt, bad bacteria cannot live. In ancient times, the Japanese began to add salt into fermented herbs, cereals and flesh. It was an effective way to preserve not only the food but also the salt itself, because the salt which was extremely valuable at that time can easily break down and become sodium magnesium which is almost useless. However, if the salt remains in protein or starch, the air cannot touch it and decomposition is prevented.
Good bacteria can live with salt, whereas bad bacteria cannot. This fact has played quite an important role in the production of fermented seasonings.


Purification and salt

In ancient times, people believed that salt had special power to purify an area and drive away evil spirits. Even now, people still sprinkle salt on themselves when they return from a funeral. At some restaurants, you can find a little pile of salt placed by the entrance to attract good luck.

In Sumo, before each match, wrestlers throw salt to purify a circle separated by the Shimenawa called “Dohyo”. The salt used for this ritual is made by traditional ways and costs quite expensive.