My favourite Japanese food is natto. The most famous natto in Japan comes from Mito, a city in Ibaraki Prefecture. Even when I lived in Osaka, it was not easy to get Mito Natto. Of course, there are many different kinds of natto available all over Japan, many specific to a particular region. A map in the Natto Pavilion showed this:
I also didn’t live very close to Mito, but this time I was more determined. On a day my friends were busy (they don’t seem to appreciate the smell, flavour, and texture as much as I do), I made the trip. When I got to Mito City and looked at the map outside the JR station, the Natto Pavilion was not listed or shown (though it is physically located within the map boundaries). Luckily, I had searched for the address on my laptop before, so I knew where I should go. Outside, the place doesn’t stand out from any other buildings on the street. Inside, there are some pictures if you have never seen it before.
Inside, there is a gift shop where I bought a box of natto nearly as big as my suitcase, a packaging area where natto is packaged for customer use, and a museum area on the second floor. There are two main sets of natto one can buy if you want everything – the B set (pictured in the store) and the A set (pictured in front of a duffel bag). Amongst other things, the set included many bunches of natto in straw (the traditional way), natto packaged in paper cups (more common and cheaper nowadays), dried natto, natto made from different kinds of soybeans, natto with different sauces (other than the typical mustard and soy sauce), natto in varying container sizes, etc. Additionally, I bought cough drops with a natto flavour, natto sesame crackers, and chocolate-covered natto.
The museum had something that looked like where they ferment natto in straw in the traditional way, though they did not actually seem to do that at this location. On the wall of the gift shop, Hello Kitty took the place of the natto inside the straw.
For more information, and particularly if you can read Japanese, this is a great website to find more about natto: the Japan natto cooperative society federation.
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