We tickle our taste buds with a grotesque-looking but premier version of the infamous “foreigner-repelling food.”

Natto, or fermented soybeans, is an extremely healthy food product consumed regularly in Japan. However, with its pungent smell and sticky texture, many foreigners–and even some Japanese people–naturally shy away from the dish.

Fortunately, our Japanese-language reporter and resident natto lover Takashi Harada doesn’t fall into that category. In fact, his love of natto is so great that while shopping recently he spotted Maboroshi no Natto,” or “Mythical Natto,” in the refrigerated section. As it was his first time ever spying this particular brand, it took all of one second to convince himself that he needed to add it to his shopping basket.

▼ Mythical Natto on sale for 278 yen (US$2.06) for a 90-gram (3.2-ounce) packet

Manufactured by Oshikiri Foods in Ebetsu City, Hokkaido, this natto was “Authentic, homegrown, and researched and developed while dreaming.” He also noticed a red stamp in the lower corner which he later found out referred to its recognition by the Japan Natto Cooperative Society Federation.

In any case, Takashi was used to buying natto in lightweight white packs, so he didn’t quite know what to expect for this one. He flipped the package over to open the seal and a line of text caught his eye. Apparently, in addition to this natto being made from an ultra-rare variety of soybean, its appearance was said to be blue with black spots. The word “grotesque” adapted into Japanese was even used in the description. That decidedly unappetizing detail made Takashi a bit nervous, but there was no going back now.

Regardless, the natto was carefully packaged in a way that begged the consumer to sit back, relax, and take their time enjoying it. Two small packets of natto sauce were also attached to the inner wrapping. As lovely as this outward look seemed, he mentally prepared himself for the fermented beans to come into view.


It wasn’t quite the level of hideousness that he was expecting, but it was certainly different from any other natto he had seen. The beans’ black luster and special stickiness were on a totally different level.

He placed it side by side with a more typical supermarket variety of natto which is sold in a three-pack of 50 grams each for only 105 yen total. The difference in size was particularly noticeable–the Mythical Natto individual beans were about three times the size of the regular ones. You could also see their enhanced level of stickiness at a glance when peeling off the film covering.

He prepared to take a bite, first without any sauce, to taste their natural flavor. The taste was incredible. Using an old-school anime reference, if regular natto was comparable to Yu Yu Hakusho‘s bulky antagonist Toguro using 30 percent of his strength, Mythical Natto was him at 8o percent–no, make that 100 percent.

Since natto is usually eaten when mixed with a little sauce, he  decided that was the next thing to do. He couldn’t quite explain how, but it somehow differed from mixing sauce with regular natto. It was readily apparent that this variety was natto royalty.

Upon trying it now, he was struck by the wholeness he could taste from each individual soybean. They had a definite firmness as well that contrasted nicely with their outer stickiness. It was a super concentrated umami flavor with a hint of sweetness.

For the record, Takashi also tried eating Mythical Natto with rice, but it was so overpoweringly strong that the rice paled in comparison. These beans could truly be a main dish by themselves. He encourages anyone looking for an elevated natto experience to purchase these or a similar “luxury” brand.

We understand, though, that natto in any form might not exactly be everyone’s cup of tea–so perhaps they’d prefer other mythical things like the Tsuchinoko Festival held recently in Gifu Prefecture instead.

Reference: Ohtsuka Farm
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