Nattō (Fermented Soybeans)

Are you a fan of natto? This Japanese staple is good for you – fermented soybeans are said to be rich in probiotics, which improve immunity and promote digestion.

However, natto is also known for its unique, or rather, pungent smell and nutty taste. Some people love it so much, but there are also many who detest the thought of consuming it. If you read Crayon Shin Chan, you might have noticed that he loves natto and raw egg on white rice. When you mix it up, it becomes slimy, sticky and stringy.

We usually refer to this slimy, sticky texture as “neba neba”. Hmm, what else is “neba neba”? Okura (ladies’ fingers), nameko (a type of mushroom) and nagaimo (mountain yam) are classic examples. On a more local front, there’s sayur raja (Malabar spinach), which turns slippery and slimy when you cook it. 

In fact, there’s even a verb called “nebaru”, which means “things that stick to each other”. It’s also used to describe a person’s persistence, whereby he or she doesn’t give up easily.

Come to think of it, since Japanese love “neba neba” textured food so much, there might be a relation as to why we’re also known for our resilience. Don’t you think so?

Akiko Nishio is the principal of A to Z Language Centre, with over 20 years of experience in teaching Japanese. She has a soft spot for good books, travelling, and ice-cold beer. 


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