Acquiring the taste for natto

Many of the locals are shocked that we still haven’t had snow that’s stayed for more than a day.

by Anna Marshall

Many of the locals are shocked that we still haven’t had snow that’s stayed for more than a day.

In Obihiro, the nearest city, they have woken up to snow several times this week. But we’re staying dry, warm and well fed in Toyokoro.

Every day at school, I receive a school lunch. Usually within the lunch there’s a salad, soup, carton of milk and a main dish – typically rice.

Last week, for the first time since I’ve been here, they served natto in the school lunch.

Natto is soybeans, fermented with a hay bacterium. Because of its very stringy texture and overwhelming smell and taste, it is an acquired taste.

Most of my coworkers know that the one Japanese food I won’t eat any more is natto. One of my coworkers has offered to make me some natto inspired dishes, just so I will join the natto fan club. I hope he succeeds.

Many foreigners who come to Japan struggle the most with the food.

Back home, we know Japanese food as sushi, or sashimi. While all of those are loved here, sushi and sashimi are quite expensive and because of this, are rarely eaten.

In the Tokachi region were I live, many fresh fruits and vegetables are grown, so they have many dishes similar to ours.

We have soup every day in our school lunches. These soups have fresh potatoes, sweet potatoes, spinach and seaweed.

Then again, Hokkaido is unlike any other place in Japan because of the access to fresh produce.

Many people have moved up here from the mainland for the fresh air and produce.

One of my adult students lived in Fukushima up until about two years ago. He shared his sad and moving story about what happened to him and his family almost three years ago when the earthquake hit and they started having problems with the nuclear reactors.

His wife, another of my students, was a town away working at an elderly group home when it hit. After waiting a day to hear back from her, the husband and wife finally contacted each other.

In the end, the wife refused to leave her patients uncared for, and chose to stay with them until they were rescued, while the husband had to move their son and all of their stuff away from the city. It was an incredible story.

Japanese proverb — ame futte chi katamaru (after the rain, earth hardens.) 

Anna Marshall is in Summerland’s Sister City of Toyokoro, Japan as the assistant English teacher.