An Acquired Taste of Japan – Natto!

We all know that Japanese food is delicious, that it’s based on a culinary tradition that produces such delicacies as sushi and ramen, kaiseki ryori and shojin ryori, that reveres the umami and inherent goodness of food.

But do you know about the more unique foods of Japan?

We start off 2018 with a new series about Japanese food—all about the dishes that perhaps take some time to be loved! Natto is one of those dishes, and is a food that any child raised in Japan is familiar with.

Natto is a dish made of fermented soybeans, full of probiotics, B & K vitamins, fiber and minerals. It’s traditionally eaten along with rice for breakfast… and is a most acquired taste!

There are multiple varieties of natto produced in Japan, and the most commonly prepared type is called itohiki natto, or “stringy natto”. The strings are a result of how the soybeans are prepared. Raw beans are first soaked for several hours, and then steamed until softened. The beans are inoculated with either Bacillus natto or Bacillus subtilis and then allowed to ferment for about 24 hours at around 104°F. When removed from the fermentation container, the beans have a pungent aroma, similar to mild ammonia, and are surrounded by gossamer threads of biofilm, giving them a sticky, slippery texture.

Slippery and slimy. It’s no wonder that legends abound about its origin! Some say that natto was discovered accidentally about 1000 years ago, when warm, cooked soybeans were placed in a sack made of rice straw and transported by horseback. The warmth of the animal fermented the cooked beans, and when the sack was opened at its destination, natto was inside!

Natto is being studied by modern food scientists and microbiologists because of its superfood properties and long-term health benefits experienced by people who traditionally eat this unique food. Dr. Ralph Holsworth, a biomedical researcher, has coauthored several studies about the enzyme nattokinase, a byproduct of the fermentation process, that have shown that the enzyme assists in the prevention of arterial plaque formation. Dr. Ann Yonetani, a food scientist and microbiologist, has also studied the benefits of natto on the human microbiome, stating that although more scientific data needs to be generated, the probiotics found in natto are more likely to survive through the digestive tract and colonize the intestines with beneficial bacteria, compared to other probiotics.

Japan isn’t the only country that lays claim to natto, although it may be where the dish comes from. A version of natto is found in the “natto triangle”, including Thailand, Northeastern India, Korea and parts of China. Commercial manufacturers and artisanal cooks make natto in the US and numerous varieties can be found at Japanese markets.

Natto is a must-try unique dish of Japan! Check it out and tell us what you think!

Product Inspirations – Travel Mug (SM-YAE48)

We’re excited to showcase our Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) as our first Product Inspiration of 2018!

This mug is a stylish and convenient way to take your favorite tea, coffee or other beverage with you whenever you’re commuting or on the go. We’ve designed it with travel-friendly features, like a generous 16-ounce capacity, a design that rests more securely in car cup holders and can fit beneath most single cup brewers, and superior vacuum insulation to keep drinks hot or cold for hours.

The exterior comes in four great colors—Lime Green, Cherry Red, Dark Cocoa and Stainless—while the interior features Zojirushi’s SlickSteel® electro-polished stainless steel, which uses an electrically charged polishing process to treat and finish the interior, without adding any nonstick coating. The result is a corrosion resistant surface that repels odors, foreign substances and stains. The wide mouth opening makes it easy to pour liquids into the mug and clean the inside, and the interior fill line markings help to prevent overfilling, which could cause leakage. Plus, all parts that come into contact with your beverage are BPA-free.

The Travel Mug also has an ingeniously crafted lid, with a safety lock that makes it leak-proof, a sipping area that comfortably fits the contours of your face, and an air vent design on the opening which allows for beverages to flow out smoothly. Best of all, the lid gaskets are removeable for easy cleaning!

Our customers love that the same trick that can be used with our insulated food jars can be used with this mug—pre-cool the interior with icy cold water before filling with a cold beverage, or pre-heat with boiling hot water before filling with a hot beverage and the temperature is kept even longer!

We’re so inspired by this travel mug and how our customers use it that we love to come up with great drinks for you. With cold winter weather upon us, we often like a warm drink, and our Cold Buster Smoothie is the best! And if you prefer something with a bit more kick to it, try out our Shake It and Take It Matcha. And of course, for those who love coffee drinks, try out our Oh So Soy Latte!

No matter what you drink, the Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) is ideal for enjoying your favorite drink when you’re on the go. And you know that the SM-YAE48 is our very own Jesse’s favorite! We hope you love it and our recipes as much as we do, and don’t forget to tell us how you use it!

The Voices of Zojirushi – Jesse

2018 marks our 100th anniversary! Zojirushi started as the Ichikawa Brothers Trading Company in 1918 in Osaka, Japan, and since then, we haven’t stopped!

We were founded on the deep belief that we succeed when we work to improve our customer’s quality of life through the creation of innovative products. Our employees are such an important part of fulfilling our mission, and we’d love for you to get to know them!

Jesus is one of our friendly Customer Service Representatives based out of our offices in Torrance, California. He goes by Jesse, and has been with Zojirushi for a whopping 24 years! Jesse embodies our company’s mission, and we caught up with him to talk about what he likes about working with customers and what inspires him about Zojirushi.

Customer service always has a variety of Zojirushi products on hand nearby to help walk customers through the use and care of them

Zojirushi believes in putting their customers first, and as a Customer Service Representative, what motivates you to be customer-focused?

I enjoy assisting people, interacting with them and striving to make a positive difference in their day. I would say working at Zojirushi provides me with the opportunity to help new people, and that is something that motivates me. My children also inspire me. I see them doing their best in whatever they do—homework, sports—and that motivates me to do my best and provide the best customer service possible.

Our corporate philosophy is Creating a Quality of Life. How does your position at Zojirushi create a better quality of life for our customers?

Our customers have a better quality of life when I’m able to solve a problem they’re having with one of our products or just by answering their baking questions during the holidays. One less thing to worry about!

Much of our product design focuses on practicality, quality, craftsmanship, sustainability and stylishness. Do you have a favorite Zojirushi product that you believe embodies these qualities, and how do you believe we embody those qualities in our services?

Safety, usability, practicality, quality, craftsmanship and stylishness. That describes the Travel Mug (SM-YAE48) to me! Also, we really believe in self-improvement and honesty. We’re always trying to improve our products and when we have an issue with the product, we do our best to correct any problem. That shows that we really care.

Zojirushi Travel Mug SM-YAE48

What’s the best dish you’ve made using one of our products, and if you could dream up your own perfect Zojirushi product, what would it be?

I would like to see a Zojirushi waffle maker! It would be so much fun if it could make waffles in the shape of our elephant logo. I’d love it as much as I love to make pork chops with roasted vegetables in the Gourmet d’Expert® Electric Skillet (EP-PBC10). They turned out really good!

Zojirushi isn’t just about products. It’s about our company’s values and the wonderful Japanese culture that informs what we do. Have you been inspired by Japan during your tenure here?

I have never been to Japan, but I would love to see the cherry blossom trees and see people wearing kimonos, the ones made with beautiful silk colors.

Finally, if you could tell people one great thing about Zojirushi, what would it be?

I have been here for over 20 years so it’s hard to narrow it down to just one moment – let’s just say I have a few! Meeting Mr. Ichikawa, the President & CEO of Zojirushi, is definitely up there. I look forward to coming to work and I’m happy to be here at Zojirushi America. I feel appreciated, acknowledged and rewarded.


Jesse is such a great team member, and we hope you enjoyed learning about his perspectives. Stay tuned next month to meet another Zojirushi star!

A Food Lover’s Tour of Japan – Hyogo and Akashiyaki

In the western part of Japan’s Honshu Island, Hyogo Prefecture encapsulates the beauty and grandeur of ancient and modern Japan, its natural beauty and its famous cuisine.

Hyogo Prefecture cuts across the Kansai region of the island, with its northern coastline bordering the Sea of Japan and its southern one the Seto Inland Sea. Mountains dot the central interior of the prefecture and contribute to the area’s natural hot springs and caves.

Kobe is the capital city of the prefecture, home to famous kobe beef, sake breweries, excellent seafood and the Luminarie Festival, held in December at the Higashi Yuenchi area to commemorate those who perished in the 1995 Great Hanshin Awaji Earthquake. Kobe is Japan’s second largest trading port after Nagoya, and along with bustling shopping, is part of the Keihanshin District, a high-end resort and tourism area including Kobe, Osaka and Kyoto. The Arima Onsen, founded in the 8th century by Buddhist monks, is a major draw, as is Mt. Rokko, standing 3,054 feet high, where indigenous Kiso and Tokara horses pasture on the mountain’s plateaus.

South of Kobe, into the Seto Inland Sea, lies Awaji Island, connected to the mainland by the Akashi Kaikyo Bridge. This bridge is the world’s longest suspension bridge, measuring 12,832 feet long with two bracing towers located approximately 6,270 feet apart. The bridge is lit every night, affording amazing views from Mt. Rokko. Awaji Island is the largest island in the Seto Inland Sea, with beaches and hiking trails, along with a unique feature called the Uzushio. Here fast tides swirl near the coast, causing whirlpools of all sizes!

Traveling counter clockwise around Hyogo Prefecture, it’s easy to visit Himeji Castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the premier examples of medieval Japanese fortified castles. The bright white castle resembles the shape of a heron with wings spread and is beautifully preserved. The castle architecture focuses on defensive strategies, showcasing multiple gates that create bottlenecks for advancing enemies, fortification walls with oval, rectangular and triangular holes from which specific weapons could be shot and skirt-like sashes at windows through which hot oil and sharp rocks could be thrown. For all of its warlike fortifications, Himeji Castle is now the site of the Himeji Castle Cherry Blossom Viewing Fair in spring, the Himeji Castle Festival in summer, the Moon Viewing festival in autumn and a famous Ceramics Market. Visitors also tour nearby Mt. Shosha, with its 1,000-year-old temple and the Kōko-en Garden, with its reproductions of Edo Period buildings.

Towards the northern part of Hyogo, the Kinosaki area boasts numerous ryokan and onsen, as well as a basalt mass 214 feet long with deep caves left over from cooled lava flows. Overlooking this picturesque area is the Onsen-ji Temple, founded by the Buddhist saint Dōchi Shōnin in the 8th century. From this temple, as numerous statues of Kan’non, the ancient Japanese Goddess of Mercy, look down over the area. Takarazuka in the southeastern part of prefecture is also famous for its Kiyoshikōjin Seichō-ji Temple, where legends of Kōjin-san, the God of Fire, abound and where visitors come to ensure good luck in their endeavors.

No matter where you are in Hyogo, small and large restaurants provide incredibly diverse Japanese food, from succulent kobe beef to the signature dish of the prefecture, akashiyaki. Akashiyaki are eggy octopus balls, similar to takoyaki, but served with a savory dashi broth and without sauce. Akashiyaki are made with eggs, green onions, ginger, a small amount of flour and pieces of diced octopus, often from the Futami area, where the species are known for their succulence. Akashiyaki are prepared similarly to takoyaki on a special molded pan heated over a wood fire, and are served slightly underdone on a sloped wooden cutting board. When eating akashiyaki, the dumplings are scooted from the cutting board into a warm umami-rich dashi broth. On a cold day, akashiyaki fill the belly and warm the soul!

And as always, be sure to share your comments below!

Product Inspirations – Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NVC10/18)

We are inspired every month by innovations that you, our fans, share with us. You inspire us to create small appliances that bring ease, convenience, versatility and style to your kitchen. And that ultimately help you cook delicious foods, simply and easily. It’s with these beliefs that we’ve created the Induction Heating Pressure Rice Cooker & Warmer (NP-NVC10/18)–our flagship rice cooker.

This rice cooker is engineered to cook perfect rice, every time. The advanced fuzzy logic with artificial intelligence technology used in this rice cooker “learns” from prior cooking experiences and makes minute adjustments to each batch of rice, so that it is cooked perfectly, every time. The microcomputer that controls the rice cooker also manages the multiple varied settings, which are accessed from the large, easy-to-read LCD panel. White rice can be cooked regular, harder or softer, and the rice cooker also has menu settings such as umami, mixed rice, sushi or sweet rice, porridge, brown rice, GABA brown rice as well as rinse-free and quick cooking. Exclusive to this model are the steam-reduce and scorch settings. The steam-reduce setting minimizes the amount of steam emitted from the rice cooker, so surrounding cabinets are protected, and the scorch setting scorches the bottom of the rice for a crunchy texture.

Pressurized cooking is a key feature in this rice cooker, as applying pressure during cooking converts the rigid beta starch in rice into alpha starch, which makes the rice sweeter, softer and easier to digest. Sushi rice, which needs to be harder in texture, is cooked at the same atmospheric pressure as sea level, while white rice and brown rice are cooked at higher pressures, which gives them a soft yet chewy consistency. No matter what type of rice you use, this machine selects from three pressure levels according to the menu selected–automatically!

The induction heating technology used in this pan creates instant and precise heat. The inner pan is heated, not the inside of the machine, so that cooking temperature is concentrated where the rice is. The inner pan is made with a platinum infused nonstick coating, making the water used to cook the rice more alkaline, enhancing the natural sweetness of the rice. Clear, bright markings make it easy to measure in the right amount of rice and water and the entire pan is easy to clean with mild dish detergent and warm water. And the stainless steel inner lid can be detached and easily cleaned in the same manner.

This machine uses the same great convenience features that our other rice cookers do: namely, the ability to select your favorite sound signal–a beep, a melody or silence–as well as Keep Warm, Extended Keep Warm, Reheat and Timer functions.

This rice cooker’s exterior is just as beautiful as the interior, featuring a clear coated stainless steel which coordinates any kitchen décor. It is available in 5.5 cup and 10 cup sizes.

Our top-of-the-line rice cooker is the ideal rice cooker for preparing a variety of dishes this season. Green Tea Rice is always a refreshing rice to serve with dishes like ginger pork and teriyaki yellow tail. Brown Rice and Black Bean Crisps are filling, look beautiful and are naturally gluten-free. And our delectable Deconstructed California Roll features sushi rice paired with crab meat, avocados, cucumbers and nori seaweed.

The rice cooker comes with a rice spatula, spatula holder and measuring cup.

No matter what you make, we know you’ll love our rice cooker as much as we do. Leave us a comment about your best experience and as always, be sure to share your favorite recipes with us!