Kazuaki Koide reports for Yahoo Japan News on a story in the Sunday Mainichi – about what’s bubbling up from the actions of a “fermentation designer”.

Hakko Department [発酵デパートメント, “fermentation department”] was opened in Tokyo’s Shimokitazawa area in April 2020 by Hiraku Ōgura, who gives himself the mysterious title of “fermentation designer”.

He struck out on his own after working as a product packaging and advertising designer for a cosmetics company, becoming a pioneer of “social design” aiming to support regional revitalisation.

Ōgura had dealt wtih immunodeficiency issues from an early age. About five years ago he met fermentation researcher and Tokyo University of Agriculture professor Takeo Koizumi, who advised him to eat fermented foods. He followed the advice, and found that condition improved. The experience inspired him to start a new long-term project, something only he could do. He jumped head-first into the world of fermentation.

He joined Tokyo University of Agriculture as a research student, learning about fermentation, starting on a journey which has now led to him opening his own business.

The site has not only a shop selling fermented foods from all over Japan, but also a café-restaurant serving dishes made with fermented foods and a gallery area for learning about fermentation and holding tastings or lectures.

This lively fermentation centre boasts many repeat customers, men and women, of all ages. It also offers a monthly subscription service, delivering a pack of selected fermented foods along with a recipe book, an ideal option for those who live further away.

The physical and online shops sell regular fermented seasonings such as soy sauce and mirin, alongside sake and snacks to go with it. A current best-seller is ‘Kokoro no su – uwazumi muroka” junmaisu [not a typo! Unfined top layer of junmai vinegar, 純米酢] from Totsuka Jōzōten in Tsuru, Yamagata Prefecture (JPY 821 including tax for 500 ml).

The online shop also has the story of Totsuka Jōzōten, recounting how a bank worker handling the bankruptcy of a vinegar maker became obsessed with the fermented foodstuff, left the bank and devoted himself to making vinegar.

They also sell Koshū yamago miso [made with two types of kōji and Yamanashi barley, JPY 497 for 400 ml] from Go-mi Shoyu based in Kofu, Yamanashi, with a warning that it’s incredibly addictive and you’ll want to put it on everything. Koide comments that he looks forward to seeing how the business grows.

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