Classic Miso Compares to the Zen Concept of ‘Circle’
Miso was always believed to be good for our health, but now it has entered into a scientific phase, empirically proven good for you. As a typical fermented condiment in Japan, miso has a history dating back 1,400 years. It used to be made at home, and thus innumerable variants of miso exist across Japan. Every miso has different characteristics based on the collaboration of its ingredients, the weather and the way it was brewed.
While its effects are being revealed, will science be able to explain everything about miso? “I think miso’s potential is deeper than what science can explain today,” said Masafumi Inoue, a miso manufacturer in Naruto, Tokushima Prefecture. As the seventh-generation owner of his miso brewhouse, he continues to use the same manufacturing method as was used 140 years ago, when his ancestors started miso production in this region.
Many more of miso’s secrets have been demonstrated scientifically. However, the reports on naturally-brewed, unheated miso are very few. Many mass-produced types of miso are heated, at which point they are believed to have lost the efficacy of their enzymes and saccharomycetes. These are effective in unheated, naturally-brewed miso.
It is true that some experts say that even active enzymes will disappear in the stomach’s gastric acid before being absorbed by the bowel; either way, enzymes will eventually help intestinal environments, and thus there is no difference between heated and unheated miso.
However, Masafumi’s experience is a little different. “I came across several customers who had fallen ill and were unable to eat anything, or who had been suffering from allergies and unable to find edible food, who started eating after they encountered unheated miso manufactured at my brewhouse,” he said. “Also, when my father was bed-ridden due to a gastrostoma, he recognized our miso not by tongue but by stomach. Although he was very ill, he was able to sense our miso if it was contained in his liquid meal.” He added that it’s the classic way of miso production developed by his forerunners that somehow made these inherent capabilities possible. Masafumi believes that although today’s science advances, an inexplicable fermentation power that transcends human intelligence still dwells in miso.