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April 2007 | Vol. 2 MUSO NEWS
Kanten (Agar Agar)

It was summer of 2005 when kanten was completely disappearing from the Japanese supermarket shelf after one TV program reported on kanten’s effectiveness on losing weight.”  There was a sudden boom so called “Kanten diet” and it still continues today.

Macrobiotic has been promoting the use of kanten for the substitution of gelatin for such a long time.  Kanten is highly respectable Japanese traditional food which offers various possibilities and takes an active role in various fields in the world today.

Birth and history
Around the 9th century the technique of extracting gel from seaweed was introduced to Japan from China.  The food made of seaweed gel was called tokoroten, which is still eaten here in Japan today.  Around 350 years ago, agar was accidentally discovered.  It was more like transfiguration than discovery.  Kanten in Japanese consists of two syllables: kan means cold and ten means heaven. This name was given to describe kanten was born with heaven’s miracle in cold weather.  And the story goes like a following.

Unused tokoroten (food made of seaweed gel) was left out in the garden of the inn in Kyoto.  It was winter so it went to congeal at night.  When sun rose, it dried out.  A few days later the owner of the inn found the freeze-dried leftover in the garden.  When he boiled it down, it went to melt.  And it went back to solidification when cooled down.    The result turned out to be more beautiful than the original tokoroten and it did not smell seaweed at all. 

Traditional method with utilization of four seasons
One of the most characteristic aspects of traditional and natural kanten production is to use the extreme temperature difference offered by Japan’s winter in the mountainside. 
To produce kanten, freezing, melting, and drying must takes place in a natural way.  The appropriate temperature for freeze would be 3 to 10 degrees below zero.  During the melting process moisture and impurities must to be removed, and the speed of melting must be gradual to maintain its right form.  For drying process, strong sun must be avoided because it would burn the color of kanten.  It was important to be dried gradually with low temperature.  In old days when freezer did not exist, our ancestor chose the location of production in the mountain area. 

Kanten becomes worldwide!
Kanten is the indispensible ingredient for the traditional Japanese-style confectionery. And now the usage of Kanten is spread to the western confectionery.  According to the recent newspaper article, there was a boom of kanten in confectionery community in France around the year of 2000 when there was a report of mad cow disease spreading throughout Europe.  At that time pastry chefs in France kept their distance from gelatin which is produced animal derived ingredient and embraced vegetable-derived gelatin, kanten as a healthy ingredient. 

Functionality of kanten is not only employed in the field of the food production but also in the cosmetic production and medical instruments.  Moreover, one of main components of kanten, agarose, is used as bacterial medium and in the field of biotechnology.

Environmental conservation
Kanten greatly contributes to the environmental conservation.  Leftover marine alga of kanten production is recycled and used as a fertilizer.  Leftover marine alga helps to convert an impoverished land to rich again by improving the quality of the soil which is injured by continuous cropping and soilborne disease.  Although they are leftover, sea alga grows in the sea where all the elements exist so that they are able to give back nutrients which soil loses over the periods of time. 

Muso would continue to introduce the products made with the traditional methods which were born through interaction between our ancestors and nature rather than industrial and mass-produced products.  And by committing to do that, we would like contribute not only to everyone’s health but also to the health of earth.

“An article on kanten”  Asahi Newspaper, Feb 24th, 2007
“Kanten encyclopedia”  Shufunotomo Publishing Service Center, June 30th, 1991

Doctor challenging common sense!
dr. Hiromi Shinya

Japanese word "Ki" the enregy of life

“Flow” and the concept of Ki energy are incorporated in all seven health tips mentioned in the above. They are also important in macrobiotic thinking. The founder of modern macrobiotic movement, George Ohsawa, continuously encouraged us to capture things in terms of energy. And Dr. Shinya also views foods as energy.

“Why are more people suffering from sickness when medical science is advancing?” is a central question of the book published in Japan in 2006 which became a million seller.  This book is called “The Way of Living without Sickness” and the author is Hiromi Shinya. He is a world-class doctor who developed the technique of colonoscopic examination of the
gastrointestinal tract and the first one to succeed colonoscopic polypectomy.  The revolutionary 'Shinya Method' has become a standard in colonoscopy these days. And the sequel of this book is released early this year and is already sold more than 400,000 copies now.

By collecting vast amounts of data on patients’ eating and lifestyle habits while diagnosing stomachs and intestines of more than 300,000 people, Dr. Shinya came to realize that eating and lifestyle habits not only create good or bad gastrointestinal conditions but also are closely linked to various illness and chronic lifestyle-related diseases.

According to Dr. Shinya’s thinking, to maintain health, there needs to be a smooth communication flow between gene, enzyme, and microorganism.  He calls this “triangle communication.”  However, it is impossible for us to engage in this triangle communication physically and consciously.  Therefore, Dr. Shinya suggests the following health tips to enhance the flow of triangle communication.

  1. Consuming right food to promote a good gastrointestinal flow.
  2. Good quality water to promote a good body fluid flow, especially blood, lymph, and urine.
  3. Right excretion to promote a good gastrointestinal flow and make blood and lymph flow well.
  4. Right breathing to balance autonomic nervous system and balance blood flow which carries oxygen throughout the body.
  5. Moderate exercise to promote a goof flow of blood and lymph.
  6. Good rest and sleep to balance a good flow of Ki energy or life energy throughout the body.
  7. Laughter and happiness to promote a good flow of Ki energy or life energy.

It is the first time in 50 years that macrobiotic is being acknowledged once again and becomes a sort of social phenomenon these days in Japan.  Or case of Dr. Shinya, not using a word macrobiotic directly, the message emphasized on the importance of whole grain and vegetable in diet and avoiding animal products and white sugar as much as possible in diet is delivered to the world out there.  If there are more doctors like Dr. Shinya, more people will surely find the true meaning of being healthy.

Announcement of New Product “Nori Krinkles”
Nori Krinkles

Nori Topping on Rice Soup

A new product, Nori Krinkles, has been added in our sea vegetable product line. “Convenience” and “taste” are two key selling points for this new product. According to the manufacturer, the production of Nori Krinkles just involves washing and immediate drying; therefore, they tend to retain more nutrients and more umami taste. Nori Krinkles have existed in our neighbor countries like China and Korea since a long time ago. However, there is no such a long history here in Japan. In Japan the nori farmers and fishermen have been consuming freshly harvested nori with the simple style of dipping them in shoyu or rice vinegar. In order to introduce plainness and freshness of nori to regular consumers, nori krinkles begun its commercialization in Japan about 25 years ago. Nori as a raw material has to be in a perfect condition, not too hard but not too soft. It took years of trial and error to merchandise Nori Krinkles. The uses of Nori Krincles are associated with convenience. They are not only used as a topping on salads, soups (miso soup and etc), noodles, and rice but also as snacks to go with the beer. Nori Krincles being toasted with sesame oil and coated with salt or sweetener is a staple snack in Korea. The manufacturer hopes to develop a healthy sea vegetable snack in the near future.


Takashi KusumotoI'm a new worker from January this year. I previously worked for another trading company and in charge of importing organic & natural food but this time, I got an opportunity to introduce Japanese food to the world! I also have a certificate in custom clearance. Glad to work with you all! My interests in organic & natural stuff range from food to cosmetics and clothes. Thinking of the better effects on our health and environment, I cannot stop buying them. Am I a nut !?
My dream is traveling in Japan and abroad and enjoyoying local food and culture. May want to live in country-side and try permaculture life in my old age.

Name Miyuki Hosokawa
9 Star K i 4 tree
Specialty in cooking Stewed food using fine Japanese traditional seasonings
Favorite Muso Products Org. Shouyu, "Aji no haha"
Hobby Cooking & stress-free Investment
Self description Basically a steady-going, sometimes hopeless optimistic.
My Dream Space and time travel