A Dyeing Art and Miso Healthy

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Saitama, Travel Volunteer Journey | 6 Comments
A Dyeing Art and Miso Healthy

From the neon modernity of Tokyo and its surrounds, we couldn’t have ended up anywhere much more different than sleepy Chichibu. There are traditional buildings on every other corner, the air is crisp and clean, and we are surrounded by mountains. We have jumped out of the fire and into a cool pine-scented bath.
It’s all pretty sedate today, but over the years Chichibu been a hectic boom town in its own right. Unbelievably fat, pure veins of copper ore were found here the year 708, centuries before it would go on to become a gold town. The copper, pure and plentiful as it was, lead to Japan minting its own coins for the first time. Until then most trade had involved the exchange of goods and services, with only a little currency that had been imported from China.

One of the earliest examples is locked away at the Hjiri Shrine. Of the fads that have come and gone in this town, Shintoism has outlasted them all. Now this site is renowned for bringing especially prosperous blessings – endless testimonies from newly rich visitors are hung outside as proof.

The kimono making business wasn’t quite so fortunate. The highly-lucrative trade filled the coffers of Chichibu for 150 years until the Second World War. Then the arrival of synthetic silk coupled with a sweeping change towards cheaper, fashionable Western clothing sent it to the wall inside a generation. Today, the trade is little more than a memory, but there is still a little weaving at the Chichibu Meisenkan. Here the old method of dyeing the fabric right through made it fully reversible(this, apparently, is quite different from the one-sided designs from Kyoto). Katy just about managed to learn all that while concentrating hard on weaving her own little cotton coaster.

Our last stop in town was a miso factory. I personally need some convincing that the health benefits of miso outweigh its taste. Katy, on the other hand, is a long-time convert and has been guzzling it down for breakfast, lunch and dinner since the day we arrived (it has quite literally offered for all three meals in some places, too).

For such a simple staple of the Japanese diet, making miso is a surprisingly tricky business, only a few ingredients and a bit of time away from being identical to the method of making sake. The end product isn’t simply a soup, either, but more like a wonder-seasoning that can be used for anything. In that regard, it’s a bit like our old friend konnyaku.
Anyway, the conclusions are that – yes – it’s very good for one’s health; and that – no – I don’t dislike it entirely, especially if it’s not mixed with seaweed, but is given a large dose of brown sugar. While that could apply to virtually any foodstuff on the Earth, I’m willing to give miso another try, not least as it’s believed to lower cancer rates, fight of free-radicals, reduce cholesterol, and grant the power of invisibility.

One of the above statements was, in fact, false. We’re offering a miso treat to the first person who can tell us one other serious benefit of miso. There’s another prize for the funniest suggestion. Comment AND WIN.


Our time in Saitama prefecture was made possible by:

The combined efforts of SAWAYA MINIBUS TOKYO and Green Tomato who got us here in the first place. They had super-efficient drivers, clean reliable vehicles and got us everywhere we needed to go on time.

Yasui Kumi, who took us around the train museum and who we have to apologise again to for not having the energy to go out drinking. Katy, however, did have the energy to enjoy a session in the massage parlour with her, while I sat in the hotel writing.

The Main Hotel, and Mr Kazutaka Takahashi for his financial support in allowing us to stay there. For its proximity to the train station and an excellent local noodle shop, it couldn’t be beaten.

Essentially every single person we met in Chichibu, from the first shrine onwards, but especially our patient guide Narumi Ikezawa who taught us a lot, not just about Saitama, but the whole of Japan. And Mr Hideo Murata who prepared a small army of media to meet us, did all of the driving all day, and who understands the horror of late deadlines and early starts better than anyone we’ve met so far. Oh and our sensationally modern ryokan, Yunoyado Wado, which gave us real beds and our own private onsen, making the naked frolicking all the more relaxing.





一方秩父銘仙と呼ばれる織物産業は厳しい歴史を乗り越えてきた。 秩父銘仙は第二次世界大戦まで秩父を支える重要な産業であったが、戦後、合成繊維が主流になり、より安価で流行を追い求めやすい洋服への移行が始まったからだ。だが今日も昔ながらの技は受け継がれており、ここ秩父銘仙館ではその技を体験する事ができるのだ。 平織りで裏表がない事が特徴の秩父銘仙、(これは京都の織物とは決定的に違う点だ)、ケイティは小さなコースターを作る事に挑戦した。



結論を言わせてもらうと、味噌は本当に体に良く、私も決して嫌いなわけではない。どんな食材とも合わせられる味噌、是非これからも食していきたいし、何と言ってもガン発症率の低下やコレステロールの減少など、健康への効果は計り知れないのだから。 ただもし味噌をよりもっとおいしく食べられる方法があれば是非教えて欲しい!




大宮でのガイドをして下さった安井久美さん。お世話になりありがとうございました。 私達をとっても興味深い鉄道博物館に連れて行って下さったのですが、夜まではお付き合いできず申し訳ありませんでした。ケイティをマッサージに連れて行って下さりありがとうございました!次回は是非一緒に飲みに行けるのを楽しみにしています。ありがとうございました。

高橋和孝さん、大宮のメインホテルさんに宿泊させていただきありがとうございました。 駅からも近くて便利な素晴らしいホテルでのお部屋をご提供下さり本当にありがとうございました。



  1. jacqui
    October 14, 2011

    contains all essential amino acids, making it a complete protein :)

  2. Joe Lafferty
    October 14, 2011

    A dislike of miso does not necessarily make one a misogynist!

  3. Jennifer Lim
    October 15, 2011

    Miso helps you swallow those Natto easier. hmm..

  4. Michelle
    October 15, 2011

    Helps reduce menopausal complaints XP

  5. Eric
    October 16, 2011

    I eat a lo of Miso although I don’t like it,
    I’m a real Sado-Miso…

  6. iida isao
    October 26, 2011