No doubt, Japanese Natto is one of the least popular Japanese foods among foreigners.
Many foreigners cannot stand it, let alone eat it, maybe because of its smell and gooey texture.
However, in Japan, it’s very popular, especially for its high nutritional power and low price.
Many of us eat, or at least make it a rule to eat it every day.
Recently, we eat it not only with steamed rice, but also with some western staple foods, such as pasta or bread.
Let’s have a look around its deep world.
To learn Kanji (Chinese characters) is always interesting and beneficial to understand what the word means.
Through Kanji, we can virtually grasp not only the meaning of the word, but also the background it was born in.
Therefore I’m going to introduce Kanji as often as possible.
Kanji for Natto is 納豆.
As I mentioned in the Soybean page, 豆 indicates a sacred container used to dedicate agricultural produces to gods.
General pronunciation for 豆 is ma–mé, whereas for 大豆, we pronounce 豆 as “zu”.
And here, I proudly introduce another pronunciation for 豆.
That is “to (u)”.
To sum up, there are three pronunciations for 豆: 1) ma–mé, 2)zu, 3) to(u).
As you have wisely guessed, 納豆 adopts the pronunciation 3) to(u).
We can not forget that Tofu 豆腐 also uses this pronunciation.
Japanese Natto rice
In the 17th century, Natto became an indispensable food among common people.
Two main fermented soy foods, Natto and Miso soup, were the standard breakfast for Japanese people.
In the past, Natt0 vendors would peddle around the neighbors early in the morning.
As I explained in the rice page, the calorie of rice is one of the highest among all the grains.
However, it contains almost no salt or protein.
To make up for these deficiencies, we need another food. That’s where Miso and Natto came in.
They are both made from soybeans, and soybeans contain quality protein in large quantities.
They also contain enzymes that boost its nutritional content.
In addition, we cannot forget the salt added to make Miso.
As a result, they are ideal accompaniments to cooked rice.
For ages, many Japanese people have been eating Miso soup and Natto with cooked rice in the morning, because they provide enough nutrition to work hard for the rest of the day.