About 1,000 years ago, some Japanese soldiers were attacked while boiling soybeans for their horses. They quickly stuffed the beans into straw bags and when they finally got around to unpacking them a few days later, they had fermented. The soldiers ate them anyway. Thus, the beginnings of natto.
Today, natto is made by fermenting soybeans with Bacillus subtilis. The fermentation process creates a slimy, stringy texture and rather pungent, stinky cheese like odour. This stuff is awesome. I was warned by my couchsurfing host in Kyoto to avoid getting any on fabrics as it is difficult to remove. I believe you and heed your warning.
I don’t know if it is easy to acquire outside of Japan, but if you find some, it is worth a try.
The similar Korean version is called cheonggukjang. It is even stinkier.
Not too long ago, I spent a long weekend in Kyoto. After 4 years in Korea, it was my first time in Japan. Pathetic. I tried to go several times before, but for some reason or another, it never worked out. It was an absolutely wonderful time. Kimono, yakitori, geisha, shrines, temples and sake. My friend and I found a very nice Couchsurfing host. He wasn’t exactly knowledgable of the city or very helpful with information and directions (it took him a while to figure out how to get from his home to the subway) but was very generous and kind.
The food was fantastic, of course. I had Okonomiyaki (a savory Japanese pancake, of sorts) for the first time, gorged myself with takoyaki (octopus pieces cooked in a dough and slathered in sauces), tried grilled bamboo and got a little sloppy with shochu and sake.
The sights were gorgeous. I will be posting the best of the bunch here. I know they don’t always contain food knowledge or recipes, but I love sharing my travel photos. Enjoy.