You’ll either love or hate those stinky, sticky beans

Posted on February 18, 2014 onOn The Japan Times

Gooey but good for you: Nattō is a healthy delicacy made from fermented soybeans. | MAKIKO ITOH

BY Makiko Itoh

Soybeans have long been an important part of the Japanese diet. They are enjoyed in many forms — as edamame, tofu or yuba; boiled or roasted; ground up as flour; and so on. Soybeans also have religious significance, as we’ve seen this month during Setsubun, when roasted soybeans are thrown to signify the driving out of bad spirits.

There is one form of soybean, however, that is quite infamous: the sticky, pungent fermented version called nattō. Its gooey consistency and extreme odor can be baffling to Westerners, and it’s far from universally loved in Japan as well: People from the west and south of the country tend not to like it. But people from the east and the north usually love it: the sticky-stringy texture, the fermented-cheese-like flavor and all.

It’s not quite certain when or who first discovered that wrapping cooked soybeans in rice straw for a while would make them ferment and become soft and sticky. The earliest written record of nattō is from around the mid-11th century, but it is fairly certain that the food itself existed way before then.

The bacillus bacteria that turns soybeans into nattō, bacillus subtilis or bacillus nattō, lives on rice straw, and since both rice and soybeans have existed in Japan since prehistoric times, it’s quite likely that nattō has been made since then too. My mother remembers her mother still making it the old-fashioned way by wrapping boiled soybeans in straw and keeping them in a warm place for a few days, but commercial nattō is made using an isolated culture in sanitized factory conditions — which, according to some, saps the food of a little of its character.

Nattō is something of an acquired taste, especially if you didn’t grow up eating it. But there are a lot of good reasons to try it. Whole cooked soybeans are packed with protein, fiber and other nutrients, but the fermentation process makes nattō even more beneficial to health: It adds probiotics to the diet, which helps with digestion as well as strengthening the immune system. It’s also packed with vitamin K, which is found in leafy greens and organ meats, as well as vitamin PQQ (pyrroloquinoline quinone), which may help your body’s cells to metabolize.

You can counteract the unique pungency of nattō by adding such aromatic ingredients as chopped green onion, grated ginger, wasabi or mustard, and even sesame seeds. (That’s why most store-bought nattō comes with a little packet of mustard.) The sauce that comes included usually contains dashi stock, which also counteracts the flavor.
Cooking, too, helps to dissipate the pungency; try using it in stir fries. Adding it to a dish with tomato sauce or curry will make the nattō-ness almost disappear. If you’re a vegan, nattō may be of particular interest as an easily digestible protein source. Try chopping it up and using it in place of ground meat.

In the recipe to the left for a kind of nattō rosti, the pungency of the fermented beans is reduced both by cooking them and by adding green onion and sesame oil, plus the yuzu sanshō in the dipping sauce. The starch in the potatoes and the stickiness of the nattō hold the pancakes together without any egg or flour binder. Use either whole-bean or split-bean (hikiwari) nattō.

If, like me, you enjoy the cheesy pungency and sticky-stringiness of nattō, then there’s no need to cook it at all; try eating it straight from the pack, seasoned with salt, instead of the usual soy sauce. Make sure to mix the beans vigorously to fully develop the sticky strings — that’s part of the full nattō experience, after all!

Original Article: The Japan Times

Japan’s leather industry, almost as tough as old boots

Posted on February 10, 2014 onOn The Japan Times

Handing down skills: Katsuhiko Nakano teaches two students how to hand stitch a leather pouch at a workshop

in his Asakusa studio. | CAMERON ALLAN MCKEAN

BY Cameron Allan Mckean
Special To The Japan Times

“Everyone says their products are ‘made in Japan,’ ” says Katsuhiko Nakano. “But it’s not really true. I doubt it.”

In his east Tokyo workshop, across the Sumida river from Asakusa Station, Nakano is surrounded on all sides by handmade bags and tools for leatherwork. He is one of the few leather craftsmen in the city who still make goods by hand. But to be honest, he’s not sure if he is comfortable being called a “craftsman.”

Local governments in both Taito and Sumida wards — the two districts in Tokyo with a strong history of leather work — are trying to revitalize local crafts and small-scale manufacturing. In the past decade they’ve helped support small-scale manufacturers in a number of ways, including the opening of Taito Designers Village in 2004, an old school transformed into a collection of studios where makers can develop skills and relationships with local craftspeople. The goal is to encourage a new generation of local makers. To the north of Asakusa Station is the Asakusa Manufacturing Studio and Taito Ward Industrial Training Center, which provides facilities for local leatherworkers and creators. This was the location of the A-Round craft and manufacturing festival in November last year.

Tokyo Art Navigation (⤢, run by the Tokyo Metropolitan Government, describes the Designers Village as, in particular, an initiative with the “power … to vitalize this community of handicrafts manufacturers.”

“I have friends at the Designers Village,” says Keito Enomoto, a 26 year old apprentice from Osaka, who has come to Tokyo to begin work as a leather craftsman, “most of them are designers.”

But something “designed in Japan,” is not the same as being “made in Japan,” Enomoto continues. “Some of these designers think that whatever they design is good enough to be mass produced, but they haven’t perfected the craft.”

Nakano also feels that the government-funded projects aren’t quite getting it right.

Which parts of goods need to be actually made in Japan for them to be considered “made in Japan?” Increasingly a “revived craft industry” is one where craftspeople are paired with designers — a formula that has had success in a number of places, particularly in Tsubame-Sanjo, a town in Niigata Prefecture that has a design-focused festival featuring its small-scale manufacturers. The problem is that more people are becoming designers, but there is no second generation of craftspeople. And so production is being moved overseas. Made in China, designed in Japan isn’t a prediction. In the leather industry, it’s already happened.

Nakano entered the leather industry with a job at a Saitama factory, in the suburban sprawl north of Tokyo. His work involved checking the quality of leather bags that had been made cheaply in China and shipped to Japan, he says. Once checked, the bags were sent to brands, some of which had their own “made in Japan” labels sewn into them. It’s a far cry from the image of the apprentice toiling away in his master’s workshop.

“I saw so many craftspeople whose kids didn’t want to continue the business,” says Nakano. Saving money became difficult. “No one wanted to pay the craftsmen fair prices,” he says, “there was just too much (alternative) stuff.”

Many gave up to become taxi drivers as “production was moved to China,” he says. “But I thought, ‘I could do this; I could make money from this.’ ”

And, against all odds, he has — as the only worker at His-Factory, a brand that produces handmade leather bags sold at his own store.

The wider culture of leather goods made by craftsmen in Asakusa, however, has gone. Revitalization is not just about making things in Japan; it’s also about reviving some nostalgic feelings about the past. But what version of history are these local initiatives trying to bring back?

In the same building that hosted the A-Round festival is Asakusa’s Industrial Leather Museum. Waiting at a small desk inside the quiet space is Minori Inagawa, a retired shoemaker and one of Japan’s leading writers on leatherwork.

“I was born in 1929, so I’ve seen everything,” says Inagawa. “You can ask me anything.”

After explaining a story about the origin of the first shoe factory in Japan — involving a handsome samurai called Nishimura Katsuzo — he tells a different story.

For 13 generations, a succession of men controlled Japan’s marginalized leather industry, each known by the official name of Danzaemon, until 1871, when the 13th and final Danzaemon, named Dan Naoki, was stripped of the title. The Danzaemon were in sole charge of leather work, not due to any special skill, but because they were responsible for the social class of people who worked the leather. Yes, social class. The leatherworkers were part of a caste that were known by a number of derogatory names. In the feudal era, they were called the eta (which meant “full of filth”), and later hinin (“non-human”) and buraku (“hamlet” people, a term that became a slur), all of which referred to roughly the same thing: outcaste, which to others meant tainted or dirty. Although they were officially liberated from their low caste in 1871, a number of the descendents of this group still live around Asakusa, and are still marginalized.

The “dirty” and difficult leather work performed in these areas gave the districts a notoriously foul smell, which forced the last Danzaemon’s leather workshops further and further out. But he wasn’t pushed out just because of the smell.

“The stench of the buraku is not the stench of leather,” writes novelist Noma Hiroshi in “Seinen no wa,” (“Ring of Youth”), a five-volume series featuring buraku. “It is the stench of Japanese history.”

Leather in Asakusa today is no longer tainted with the stench of animal hides or oppression. But many versions of its history remain linked to the land here, and with them the complicated question of how to revive the right version to help revitalize the area.

In his Asakusa workshop, Nakano tries to articulate what he thinks is needed.

“Dirt and mud,” he finally says. “The work today is missing soul, the kind of soul that you pull up with your hands.” A certain unpolished, primordial stench that comes from something well-made and hand-made.

“People have forgotten what well-made means,” says Nakano, “even the makers have forgotten, too.”

Original Article: The Japan Times

Study shows yogurt consumption reduces the risk of type 2 diabetes

Released on EurekAlert! On February 5, 2014

New research published in Diabetologia (the journal of the European Association for the Study of Diabetes) shows that higher consumption of yoghurt, compared with no consumption, can reduce the risk of new-onset type 2 diabetes by 28%. Scientists at the University of Cambridge found that in fact higher consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, which include all yoghurt varieties and some low-fat cheeses, also reduced the relative risk of diabetes by 24% overall.

Lead scientist Dr Nita Forouhi, from the Medical Research Council (MRC) Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge, commented “this research highlights that specific foods may have an important role in the prevention of type 2 diabetes and are relevant for public health messages”.

Dairy products are an important source of high quality protein, vitamins and minerals. However, they are also a source of saturated fat, which dietary guidelines currently advise people not to consume in high quantities, instead recommending they replace these with lower fat options.

Previous studies on links between dairy product consumption (high fat or low fat) and diabetes had inconclusive findings. Thus, the nature of the association between dairy product intake and type 2 diabetes remains unclear, prompting the authors to carry out this new investigation, using much more detailed assessment of dairy product consumption than was done in past research.

The research was based on the large EPIC-Norfolk study which includes more than 25,000 men and women living in Norfolk, UK. It compared a detailed daily record of all the food and drink consumed over a week at the time of study entry among 753 people who developed new-onset type 2 diabetes over 11 years of follow-up with 3,502 randomly selected study participants. This allowed the researchers to examine the risk of diabetes in relation to the consumption of total dairy products and also types of individual dairy products.

The consumption of total dairy, total high-fat dairy or total low-fat dairy was not associated with new-onset diabetes once important factors like healthier lifestyles, education, obesity levels, other eating habits and total calorie intake were taken into account. Total milk and cheese intakes were also not associated with diabetes risk. In contrast, those with the highest consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products (such as yoghurt, fromage frais and low-fat cottage cheese) were 24% less likely to develop type 2 diabetes over the 11 years, compared with non-consumers.

When examined separately from the other low-fat fermented dairy products, yoghurt, which makes up more than 85% of these products, was associated with a 28% reduced risk of developing diabetes. This risk reduction was observed among individuals who consumed an average of four and a half standard 125g pots of yoghurt per week. The same applies to other low-fat fermented dairy products such as low-fat unripened cheeses including fromage frais and low-fat cottage cheese. A further finding was that consuming yoghurt in place of a portion of other snacks such as crisps also reduced the risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

While this type of study cannot prove that eating dairy products causes the reduced diabetes risk, dairy products do contain beneficial constituents such as vitamin D, calcium and magnesium. In addition, fermented dairy products may exert beneficial effects against diabetes through probiotic bacteria and a special form of vitamin K (part of the menaquinone family) associated with fermentation.

The authors acknowledge the limitations of dietary research which relies on asking people what they eat and not accounting for change in diets over time, but their study was large with long follow-up, and had detailed assessment of people’s diets that was collected in real-time as people consumed the foods, rather than relying on past memory. The authors conclude that their study therefore helps to provide robust evidence that consumption of low-fat fermented dairy products, largely driven by yoghurt intake, is associated with a decreased risk of developing future type 2 diabetes.

Dr Forouhi stated that “at a time when we have a lot of other evidence that consuming high amounts of certain foods, such as added sugars and sugary drinks, is bad for our health, it is very reassuring to have messages about other foods like yoghurt and low-fat fermented dairy products, that could be good for our health”.


1. Type 2 diabetes is common and the number of people with this serious medical condition is increasing in every country, with the International Diabetes Federation global estimates of 382 million people with diabetes in 2013, rising to 592 million in 2035. The potential for its prevention by factors such as the foods we eat is therefore of great interest.

2. In this study, total dairy intake in grams per day was estimated and categorised into high-fat and low-fat dairy and by subtype into yoghurt, cheese, and milk. Combined fermented dairy product intake (yoghurt, cheese, sour-cream) was estimated and also categorised into high- and low-fat.

3. In this study, the fat content of whole milk in the UK (3.9% fat) was used as the cut-off for defining high- and low-fat dairy products.

Original Article released:

Link Cited on: LINK de DIET

St. Valentine’s Day in Japan ②

In my last blog entry, I explained about Japanese Valentine’s Day that it is customary for women to give chocolate gifts for men they like. Though Valentine’s Day (Feb.14) is over, the event is still ongoing. Whoever received chocolate gifts on Valentine’s Day is expected to give return gifts.

Return Gifts for Valentine’s Day in one month later on White Day.
The budget for the return gifts is expected to spend 1.5 to 3 times more!?

Another trait of Japanese Valentine custom is that men who received Valentine’s chocolate gifts on Valentine’s Day, whether the gifts were “love-you-chocolate,” or “thank you chocolate, must give back so-called return gifts on March 14th, “White Day.”
The items typically selected for return gifts of White Day are hard candies, cookies, and marshmallows. This is also the outcome of the sales promotion that confectionery companies created.

(By the way, this custom of return gift has recently been practiced also in China, Korea, and Taiwan, but there is no such custom in US or Europe. White Day is nothing but unknown word. )

The average budget women tend to spend on one “love-you-chocolate gift” is around \2500 to \3000. “Thank you gifts” in contrast, are usually bought in big quantities, so it eventually requires reducing a unit cost, approximately less than \500 each.

On the other hand, return gifts on White Day from men are expected to be 1.5 to 3 times more expensive items than the Valentine’s gifts. It may not be too difficult to come up with a return gift for wives or lovers. Taking out for a dinner or sending flowers would convey their feelings of love and gratitude.

It was for the “obligated/courtesy gifts” distributed in office that many men struggled in preparing. Sweets solely did not meet the expectations, so it was common for the White Day gifts contained additional item such as handkerchief, coffee mug, stationary, or something small but practical items. This custom steadily but obviously became burden on men. Not knowing what to buy, some men would ask their wives or girlfriends to select White Day gifts. Don’t you think they got their priorities backwards?

Returning gifts or gratitude is considered to be a proper manner in Japan and White Day unexceptionally follows it. But lately, it seems that many people prefer the custom of US and Europe that Valentine’s gifts should be given or exchanged without being stereotypical to genders.

Latest Trend of Valentine’s Chocolate: “Friendship chocolate” & “My chocolate”

In addition to the basic Valentine’s chocolate gifts, “love-you-chocolate,” and “obligated/courtesy chocolate,” there are two other types of chocolate gifts that have become popular for the past years. They are called “friendship chocolate” and “my chocolate.”

“Friendship chocolate gifts” are exchanged with girl friends to thank for being friends. This is popular among young girls in school, even in kindergarten. As it’s named “friendship chocolate,” you need to give the gifts fairly to all the friends in class if you choose to do so. In many cases, Valentine’s friendship gifts are homemade snacks or you buy self-packed small chocolate sweets in a family pack and rewrap. Either way, it is very important to prepare enough numbers of gifts; otherwise, it could affect the relationship with your friends.

Assuming that “friendship chocolate” is to nourish peer relationship for school age girls, “my chocolate” is for working women or household wives in 20s to 40s to reward themselves for working hard every day. The chief distinction of “my chocolate” is the budget that women willingly spend on. They do not hesitate to pay \4000 ($40.00) for a 9-piece assorted chocolate box because it is their treat. For that reason, many major department stores give high priority to hold Valentine Fairs where high brand chocolates of famous patissiers or chocolatiers gathered from all over the world.

Effect of Valentine’s Day

We cannot help admitting that media and confectionery industries have great influence on Japanese Valentine’s Day. Some can take advantage of this custom to build up better relationship with others while others may not find it so fun.

For example in schools, good-looking and athletic boys mostly attain popularity and attentions from girls. It is quite natural for such boys to receive several Valentine’s chocolate gifts each year since grade school. While competing with their peers for the numbers of chocolate gifts, they tend to become self-absorbed and narcissist. In contrast, some boys who don’t get categorized as popular may suffer from feeling inferior for not getting even one “thank you chocolate gift” from girls.

Some girls also participate in Valentine’s event just for complacence purpose. They don’t expect to become someone’s special girlfriend. What they value the most is the act of ‘giving a chocolate gift to someone nice.’ It is not surprising to find that there are quite many girls who give chocolate gifts to boys they have never spoken to. Girls like to hang out as a pair or a group and it is so exciting for them to chat about boys. They simply enjoy the process of Valentine event. They decide who to give chocolate gifts to, go out for shopping or make chocolate sweets with friends. They even accompany their friends when giving Valentine’s chocolate gifts to boys.

Conveying the feelings to others is more important than giving a gift in US and Europe on Valentine’s Day. A gift is just one way of expression. But it is obvious that people in Japan attach too much importance to giving a chocolate, which tells how the custom of Valentine’s Day has grown and spread in Japan.

** ** **

Japanese Valentine’s Day is unique, isn’t it? But I need to emphasize that it is a precious opportunity for the Japanese who seldom express affection. Especially, the married couples who are nurturing children tend to hesitate to tell each other “I love you.” I hope many people make great use of Valentine’s Day to feel favorable towards other people, whether they are lovers, family member, or friends and enjoy the special day to tell their honest, thankful feelings.

On the day before Valentine’s Day during my lunch break, I happened to stop by a supermarket which has a small flower shop at the entrance. On entering, I saw several foreign men (probably US service men from US military base) holding a bouquet of red roses. As I walked by into the store, I also saw several Japanese women picking up Valentine’s chocolate gifts in the separated section. It was such an impressive and contrastive scene.

By the way, I gave chocolate cakes to my husband, but he did not have anything ready for me as expected.(^^; I am looking forward to White Day!

St. Valentine’s Day in Japan ①

Friday was St. Valentine’s Day. For the past one month, every store I went had a special section for Valentine’s Chocolate Gifts with vivid red and pink pop decorations. TV and magazines made features on what the trends of this year’s chocolate gifts were or introduced homemade sweets recipes. Major department stores held Exhibition and Spot Sale Valentine’s Fair of famous, high brand chocolate gathered from all over the world.

Media has paid much attention to Valentine’s Day, from which you can tell that it is a big event in Japan. Though Valentine’s Day is a foreign culture, it is quite different in Japan. Today, I would like to report on such Valentine’s Day in Japan towards those of you who live overseas but are interested in Japanese culture.

Valentine’s Day in Japan is the day girls

What makes Japanese Valentine’s Day so peculiar is that women give chocolate or chocolate sweets to men. The act of giving chocolate gifts infers “I like you.” “Will he receive my chocolate?” “Will she give me a chocolate?” Valentine’s Day is a significant event for them.

In US or Europe where Valentine’s Day originated, people regardless of their gender, give presents to their lovers, spouses, parents, close friends or teachers to show their affections and appreciations. Presents are not specified to chocolates like in Japan. Any kind of sweets, bouquet, jewelries, or even a card is highly appreciated. What is important is to show how much you care about them.

How Valentine’s Day spread throughout the nation…

Valentine’s Day has been established as one of the annual events in Japan due to confectionary company’s manipulative sales promotion.

On Valentine’s Day,
When you, girl gives chocolate gifts to the boy you like,
Your romantic feelings will reach to him.”

By specifying exactly what to do on Valentine’s Day, the companies successfully fixed the image of Valentine’s Day, which soon spread among women sensible to the latest trends. At first, they must have enjoyed giving out chocolates just for a fun. But soon, the event became so inevitable for Japanese people that we cannot neglect it.

Any companies make efforts to increase in sales. Valentine’s Day in Japan was not exceptional. Knowing that chocolate gifts are strongly tied to Valentine’s Day, it is natural that the related companies employ every available means to promote sales of their own products. So they have planned out strategies to deal with how to sell more of their products to more and more consumers.

Love-you-chocolate and Obligated/Courtesy-chocolate

As I mentioned earlier, chocolate gifts play an important role in Japanese Valentine’s Day; there are two major types of chocolate gifts; “Honmei-chocolate,” or “love-you-chocolate” and “Giri-chocolate,” or obligated/courtesy-chocolate.

“Love-you-chocolate” is literally what women prepare for men they are in love with. They tend to select chocolate gifts at famous, high-class brand stores. Some even spend time and effort on homemade chocolate sweets. Either way, it is very important to convey their genuine love feelings.

“Obligated or courtesy chocolate” means simply “thank you gifts.” Contrarily to the “love-you-chocolate” given to the specific person, obligated/courtesy chocolate gifts are to distribute to male classmates or co-leagues. This is also one of the sale strategies r

The custom of giving out “thank you chocolate” on Valentine’s Day is commonly seen in office. Some prepare chocolate gifts for all the male workers while others pitch in money and take turns in buying gifts. At first, this custom was appreciated so anybody can enjoy Valentine’s Day casually. Because it was widely spread among people in Japan, however, it gradually became mandatory. That is why I phrase “thank you gift” as “obligated or courtesy.” Depending on the situations, this peculiar custom of Japanese Valentine’s Day could be regarded as positive or negative acts. As a result, some office banned their workers from giving out chocolate gifts on Valentine’s Day.

This actually happened in my husband’s office. He used to bring home decent chocolate gifts properly wrapped. But for the past 10 years, instead of getting individual gifts, some chocolate snacks are ready for break time. Although break time snacks are always available and all the workers pitch in money for them, my husband says he feels happy to see chocolate snacks in Valentine package on Valentine’s Day.

** ** **

In the next blog entry, I would like to focus on other more about
Return Gifts for Valentine’s Day in one month later on White Day.
The budget for the return gifts is approximately 1.5 to 3 times more!?

Top 10 Foods Highest in Calcium

Calcium is necessary for the growth and maintenance of strong teeth and bones, nerve signaling, muscle contraction, and secretion of certain hormones and enzymes. A deficiency in calcium can lead to numbness in fingers and toes, muscle cramps, convulsions, lethargy, loss of appetite, and abnormal heart rhythms. Conversely, excess calcium (particularly from supplements) can lead to kidney stones, calcification of soft tissue, and increased risk of vascular diseases like stroke and heart attack. Most calcium is found in dark leafy greens and dairy. While there is some evidence that oxalates in greens can hinder calcium absorption, they are still a good source of calcium, and the calculated percent daily value (%DV) already takes into account absorption and bio-availability. For more, see the section on calcium absorption. The %DV for calcium is 1000mg. Below is a list of high calcium foods by common serving size, for more, see the extended lists of high calcium foods by nutrient density, and calcium rich foods.

#1: Dark Leafy Greens (Watercress)

Calcium in 100g (Raw)

1 Cup Chopped (34g)

10 Sprigs (25g)

120mg (12% DV)

41mg (8% DV)

30mg (3% DV)

Other Greens High in Calcium (%DV per cup, chopped, raw): Curly Kale (14%), Dandelion Greens (10%), Turnip Greens (10%), Arugula (6%), and Collards (5%).

#2: Low Fat Cheese (Mozzarella Nonfat)

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup Shredded (113g)

1 Ounce (28g)

961mg (95% DV)

1086mg (109% DV)

269mg (27% DV)

Other Cheeses High in Calcium (%DV per ounce): Low Fat Swiss (27%), Reduced Fat Parmesan (31%) and Cottage Cheese 2% Fat (2%).

#3: Low Fat Milk & Yogurt (Nonfat Milk)

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup (245g)

Per Fluid Ounce (31g)

125mg (13% DV)

306mg (31% DV)

39mg (4% DV)

Other Dairy High in Calcium (%DV per cup): Nonfat yogurt (49%) and Low Fat Yogurt (45%).

#4: Chinese Cabbage (Pak Choi, Bok Choy)

Calcium in 100g (Raw)

1 Cup Shredded (70g)

1 Head (840g)

105mg (11% DV)

74mg (7% DV)

882mg (88% DV)

Other Cabbage (%DV per cup cooked): Green Cabbage Cooked (4% DV), Red Leaf Cabbage Cooked (3% DV).

#5: Fortified Soy Products (Tofu)

Calcium in 100g (Raw)

1/2 Cup Raw (124g)

1/2 Cup Fried (124g)

350mg (35% DV)

434mg (43% DV)

1192mg (119% DV)

Other Soy Products High in Calcium (%DV per 1/2 cup): Nonfat Soy Milk with added calcium and vitamins A and D (13%) and Unsweetened Soy Milk with added calcium and vitamins (13%).

#6: Okra (Cooked)

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup Sliced (160g)

8 Pods (85g)

77mg (8% DV)

124mg (12% DV)

65mg (7% DV)

#7: Broccoli

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup Chopped (91g)

1 Cup Cooked (156g)

47mg (5% DV)

43mg (4% DV)

62mg (6% DV)

One cup of cooked broccoli, boiled in water contains just 54 calories.

#8: Green Snap Beans

Calcium in 100g (Raw)

1 Cup Raw (110g)

Per Cup Cooked (125g)

37mg (4% DV)

41mg (4% DV)

55mg (6% DV)

One cup of cooked green snap beans, boiled in water contains just 44 calories.

#9: Almonds

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup Whole (143g)

1 Ounce (28g)

264mg (26% DV)

378mg (38% DV)

74mg (7% DV)

A one ounce (28g) serving of almonds, which is about 23 kernels, contains 161 calories.

#10: Fish Canned (Sardines, in Oil, with Bones)

Calcium in 100g

1 Cup Drained (149g)

1 Ounce (28g)

383mg (38% DV)

569mg (57% DV)

107mg (11% DV)

Other Canned Fish High in Calcium (%DV per ounce serving): Pink Salmon (8%), Anchovies (6%) and Shrimp (4%).

Original Article: The Japan Times

Malay Style Wedding Party: A Report from Malaysia

Weddings are one of the biggest events in our lives. There are various wedding styles with their related customs around the world.
The other day, I had a chance to attend a Malay wedding party. Although only close relatives and friends are usually invited to a wedding party in Japan, everybody is invited to the Malay style wedding party called a “Kenduri”. You don’t have to stay from the beginning to end, but simply come when you are ready, eat, and leave; how easy going!
Some people attend the party even though they don’t know the bride or groom. The smaller the town, the more guests are invited and served a special dinner.
Traditionally, the hosts prepare the dinner with the help of their neighbors and invite guests to their home, although nowadays many people use catering services or hold the event in a public hall; this is especially true in big cities.

Buffet-style lunch including fried chicken or beef stew. For dessert, curry puff and Nyonya Kuih made of rice and coconut milk.

At the party I attended, guests started eating before the bride and groom appeared, and some left without seeing them. Many parties are held on auspicious dates in the calendar, so it’s not unusual to be invited to three or four parties on the same date. The bride and groom appear about one and a half hours after the party has started.
As a Japanese person, I felt slightly at odds with this custom. However, I discovered that although “Kenduri” originally meant preparing a feast for the poor and orphaned children, it has gradually been expanded to a dinner for one’s relatives, friends and neighbors, so I can understand that eating before the bride and groom and leaving early is not impolite. In spite of this, I stayed at the party until the end.

Malay couples wear outfits of matching colors for the ceremony.

At a Japanese wedding party, the important thing is for the hosts to share time with their guests over a dinner, from the first toast to the end of the party. It’s a party style very much with a culture of enjoying alcohol. However, because of their religion, Malay people don’t drink alcohol, so don’t toast during the party; they start eating anytime, finish quickly and then go home and this style must seem very normal for them.
For a traditional Japanese wedding party, alcohol is a must. We can relax, talk a lot, enjoy more the taste of the food, and enjoy sitting with a good drink. Sake, as alcoholic is called in Japan, is a part of Japanese culture and is always connected with food. In the Muslim world, however, there is no culture of drinking alcohol (a quarter of the world’s population is Muslim and increasing, so perhaps in the future, the alcohol-drinking population will get smaller!) For a person like me who loves a good drink, my first experience to attend a Malay wedding made me feel somewhat anxious.

new trend of a small cake as a take-away gift. Traditionally, boiled eggs are prepared which are said to bring someone a lot of children.

Reported by Makiko Wada, Sugawara Institute

Funerals in Japan- Part II

Well, today I’ll show you what funerals in Japan are like these days.

International Comparison of Funeral Costs
As I mentioned in the previous blog, most Japanese hold services for the deceased according to Buddhist rites. There are different kinds of styles of wakes and funerals in Japan, but in general, a family member close to the deceased hosts the funeral, inviting relatives, friends, acquaintances, and neighbors of the departed. The funerals of this kind are one of the biggest events, like weddings. Therefore, they are expensive. The national average funeral cost in Japan is around 2.0 million yen, while a wedding is around 2.5 million yen. According to Wikipedia, the average funeral cost is around 2.31 million yen in Japan, 0.444 million yen in the US and 0.123 million yen in the UK. Most Japanese people are saving money for their post-retirement years, including their own funeral expenses.

In recent years, however, more and more Japanese seem to hold private funerals without following this tradition. My husband and I agree with the idea; we don’t think we need lavish funeral events anymore.

On the other hand, when my father-in-law passed away, my mother-in-law wanted to hold an event-style funeral. Her husband was a person of few words and disliked big parties, but his wife wanted to display a lot of paintings her husband made as a hobby in the funeral venue. She wanted to show the paintings to attendees. It was important for my mother-in-law that people in the neighborhood thought she held a decent funeral. However, my mother-in-law is a person who has a hard time picking from a list or making her own decisions. As the result, we, my husband, her first son, and I were as busy as beavers on behalf of our mother. Lovely.

In Japan, as soon as a member of your family dies you assign a funeral company. The company solely undertakes a string of actions you need to perform as the host of a funeral: treating the body, arranging for the funeral venue and contacting a Buddhist monk, building and decorating an altar, taking care of attendees, preparing catered meals and gift boxes for attendees; and moving to and from the crematorium. I hear funeral business in Japan is about to become a 2-trillion-yen (20-billion-dollar) industry. The bereaved, and especially the host of the funeral, are the ones who had the closest relationship with the deceased, so they are actually too sad and lonely to organize the funeral rites. Therefore, the designated funeral company is absolutely necessary because they do facilitate the funeral rites and take care of the attendees very well. Most funeral companies offer package selections for funeral services they perform for the family from the time of death to the end of cremation. A few days after the funeral, the host gets a large bill.

Even in Heaven, Money Talks. Is It True?
Funeral companies establish good relationships with monks who chant Buddhist sutras, temples and funeral homes, and cemeteries. So you don’t have to find the monk and ask for the Dharma name of the deceased. Your funeral company will do it for you, and they show you a price list of offering (service fee) for the monk and the fee for designating the Dharma name. Dharma names are classified according to rank; the higher rank you want, the more money you are asked to pay. As someone living in modern society, I am wondering why money can buy your postmortem status. And actually, only heaven knows if you are treated nicely in the afterworld…

It seems that there are some people like me who question event-style funerals and a costly designation system of Dharma names. Since more and more people feel funeral costs are too expensive, some funeral companies have offered low-priced services in recent years. The other day I happened to see a funeral company’s advertisement on a building on the street. It showed that the lowest service fee was 98,000 yen. I googled the funeral service and found that the amount was really the minimum price. I mean, if you want other necessary services, you’ll be billed at 300,000 to 500,000 yen eventually.

How do you want to be treated at the very last moment of your life? Recently in Japan, preparing for your ending including your own funeral and burial has become known as shukatsu, and it is a new trend that we try to plan for our ending while we still have a sharp mind and body. After I experienced my family funeral, I reaffirmed that I had to work on my shukatsu before it was too late. I believe that thinking about my ending, being consistent with my own principles and leaving my written will, are necessary for myself and for my family. I also wish members of my family would leave their will either in writing or oral message so that the rest of the family won’t feel troubled about what they should do.

Reported by Yukari Aoike, Sugahara Institute