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June 2007 | Vol. 3 MUSO NEWS
Umeboshi (Japanese Pickles)
Lady bug found on Ume farm

Recently certain Muso employees visited organic farms of Japanese plum, “Ume”. These farms are located within 2 hour drive from Osaka, in the heart of Yoshino mountain area which is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site. It is also said that the Emperor and his royal family had resided in this mountain area in the 8th century. These farms are managed and operated by Yamatomagokorokai, a group formed by two Ume farmers: Mr. Kumashiro and Mr. Tsuruta.

Muso staff visited Organic ume farm in June, 2007

Ume season has just started (ume season usually starts around June), and there were plenty of green Ume plums on the tree that are waiting to be picked.  They were still fairly small in size so that they are used to produce Ume syrup and Ume wine.  For the production of Umeboshi (pickled Ume) fruits must be larger and ripened completely. Best picking time is when the boughs that bear fruits hang lowest as if they almost touch the ground.  Ume plums are usually picked around the mid June, just before the raining season starts.

Organic Farming
Mr. Kumashiro came to know about organic farming in the late 70s when he attended macrobiotic symposium.  Soon he identified himself with the idea and importance of natural farming method.  It was a continuing process of trial and error until when his farm was organically certified in 1987, the first to be certified organic in the area.  Now his group  owns eight organic Ume farms (3.3 hectares in total) and produces 25 tons of ume plums annually. 

Why Organic?
“The difference between vegetables that taste sweet and vegetables that taste bitter is related to the nitrate content in vegetables: less nitrate the sweeter vegetable is,” says Mr. Kumashiro.  Nitrates are widely distributed in nature, including in soil.  However, nitrates are heavily generated in vegetables when the field is over-fertilized with nitrogen.  Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract.  Moreover, nitrosamines, known to be carcinogenic, are produced from nitrites and secondary amines, which often occur in the form of proteins.  Mr. Kumashiro says that organic farming is only the surest way to produce vegetables with less nitrate content that are healthy and sweet.
Mr. Kumashiro went through hard time to send the messages to the consumers who are often care about physical appearance.  However, consumers now start to realize there are more things to be concerned about rather than looks of the vegetables since organic farming has become widespread in recent years.  According to Mr. Kumashiro, there still exists a great deal of pressure from multinational agricultural biotechnology and agrichemical corporations.  Mr. Kumashiro, along with his son, would like to continue promoting organic Ume farming.  Muso also likes to support expansion of organic Ume farming and help distributing more organic umeboshi and organic ume paste in the future.

Characteristics of Umeboshi

Dish with umeboshi

An umeboshi a day keeps the doctor away

We are now in the ume (Japanese plum) harvesting season.  Green plum will become what is known as “Umeboshi” through the process of pickling in salt, sun-drying, and pickling seasoning in beefsteak leaves. On close examination, it becomes apparent that  Umeboshi offers various health benefits.

Alkaline food
Although being sour, umeboshi is considered to be an alkaline food.  And blood (body fluid) must be maintained in mild-alkaline level in order for humans to be in healthy condition.  The foods that are exactly opposite from umeboshi are acidic foods.  What has been referred to as “tasty foods” are considered to be acidic foods; the most notable acidic foods are refined sugar, egg, meat, fish, white rice, bread, and processed foods such as ham and sausage.  The proverb says “There is no rose without a thorn.”  Isn’t it ironic is that whatever tastes good is not good for your health.

Neutralizing power
In contrast, alkaline foods are plain foods such as vegetables and sea vegetables.  This is why we often lack of consuming alkaline foods.  And one of the prominent features of umeboshi is a neutralizing power.  For instance, white (polished) rice is an acidic food.  To neutralize 100g of white rice requires consuming 70g of potato or 70g of daikon radish.  However, in the case of using umeboshi, it requires only 1g of umeboshi and 0.2g of ume extract to neutralize 100g of white rice.  Moreover, it only takes 10g of umeboshi to neutralize 100g of sugar.

In the beginning of 1950’s, Dr. Hiroshi Sato at Hirosaki University succeeded extracting antibiotic from umeboshi.  He revealed that 6g of ume extract invalidate invalidated dysentery bacteria and 9g of ume extract invalidated dysentery bacteria and staphylococci together.  He also proved that umeboshi juice would be able to kill various bacteria such as dysentery, typhoid, and paratyphoid.  Furthermore, it takes 5 minutes to kill cholera bacilli, 10 minutes to kill typhoid, and 30 minutes to kill paratyphoid and dysentery bacteria.

Various benefits
Besides disinfecting power, umeboshi offers other various effects.  It eases hot flashes, brings down fever, adjust stomach condition to relive abdominal fullness, and stabilize the mind.  Furthermore, it relives nerve pains and rheumatoid arthritis, relieves paralysis of limbs caused by stroke, brings up good complexion, smoothes muscle movement, relieves relives diarrhea and thirst, and treat black and blue spot.
It would be better off consuming umeboshi willingly than worrying about sodium intake.

*The information used in the above article are extracted from the article carried in Macrobiotic Magazine “Musubi” and written by Mr. Yamamura at Ghosh Institute.  Please refer to the following for bio of Mr. Yamamura.

Shinichiro Yamamura
Born in 1949 in Iwate prefecture.  He started natural food shop in 1977.  He attended Kushi Institute in the U.S. and graduate from there with MCT in 1999.  He then established Ghosh Institute and is active on providing lectures and dietary consultations around Japan ever since.

Announcement of "Green Tea"
Green tea flower

Green tea leaves (spring)

Green tea farm

One third of the existing regions in Japan are involved with Tea production.  Tea harvest season starts in May and will continue through the end of fall.  Teas are harvested 4 times in a year and are categorized into four types, depending on the harvest period.

First picked tea: aka New Tea (picked between April and May)
First picked tea provides the best quality in both taste and aroma and is best suited to produce sencha.  Tea leaves in this period are very soft and nutrients are stored in the leaves since the previous year’s harvest. 

Second picked tea (picked in June)
Harvest period lasts for about two weeks.  Although nutrient content in these tea leaves is a little less than first picked teas, tea leaves grow up rapidly by the warm climate around this period. 

Third picked tea: aka Summer Tea (picked between July and August)
Harvest period will take place after a month and half of the previous harvest.

Fourth picked tea: aka Fall Bancha (picked between September and October)
Growth of tea leaves reaches its maximum.  Usually fourth picked tea leaves are mixed with third picked tea leaves to make bancha.  It is said that bancha contains less caffeine since tea leaves harvested in both periods are fully grown, not young like first picked tea leaves.

Aging society and green tea
It is often said that green tea is good for your health.  As an aging society has emerged on the horizon, you better not take your eyes off green tea.  The rate of getting dementia increases as you age.  Now there is new research showing that green tea consumption possibly decreases the risk of getting dementia.  This research consists of two parts: One survey to determine type of drink taken daily and daily intake. The other research component ensured that every respondent to the survey taking MMSE (mini-mental state examination) was conducted on 1,000 elderly adults (between 70 and 96 years old).  The findings of the research suggest that intake of green tea contributes to lower the risk of getting dementia.  On the other hand, the findings do not suggest the link between daily intake of other drinks such as red tea, oolong tea, and coffee and cognitive function.  “Catechin may be a key component,” says Mr. Kuriyama at Tohoku University, who conducted this research.  Catechin is a type of polyphenol found in tea leaves.  It is known that unfermented green tea contain most catechin since catechin content in tea leaves decreases as fermentation process advances.  Numerous studies based on experiment on animals and nerve cells have already revealed that catechin in green tea is effective against Alzheimer and Parkinson’s disease.

PET Tea Market
From year to year PET green tea has a stronger presence in refreshing beverage market in Japan.  Demand of green tea beverages has soared since 1999 and nowadays the size of the market for green tea beverages is said to be worth \500 billion yen (about $ 4 billion).  Every year around 50 new products of green tea beverages are introduced in the Japanese market.  At the moment, coffee beverages hold the largest share (16%) in the Japanese beverage market.  However, it is predicted by the beverage industry that green tea beverage will approach the number one beverage in a few years.  At the same time PET green attracts a great deal of attention as being a convenient non-sugar healthy beverage worldwide.

Organic Farming and Green Tea
Total domestic production of tea leaves in 2005 amounts to 100,000 tons.  Of these tea leaves, 1,610 tons are organically produced.  The percentage of organic green tea leaves’ production accounts for 1.61% of the total green tea leaves’ production.  And this figure is highest among Japanese domestic agricultural products.  Organic PET tea was introduced to the market in Japan about 5 years ago.  Now Muso is in the process of getting PET green tea, PET hojicha, and PET kukicha certified by Ecocert.  We will inform you once these products are officially certified.


Takashi KusumotoAlthough English is not my cup of tea, it has been 10 years since I got involved myself in trading business. To me the food business is a good stimulation beacuse everyday is like a new experience.

Name Chiaki Suginaka
9 Star K i 2 Soil
Specialty in cooking Home-baked bread
Favorite Muso Products Organic Shoyu and Somen
Weak Point English
Self description I watch more than 100 movies a year for the last 7 years.
My Dream Space and time travel