Soybeans (Longevity Series Part 1) / 大豆

Updated: Jun 28

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Japan has the second highest life expectancy in the world (Hong Kong as #1), and it is largely attributed to diet. I’d like to examine some unique elements that contribute to this healthy longevity in the next several articles. The first factor is Daizu (soybeans) that has been an important part of their diet for over 10,000 years since the Joumon era (15,000~400 BC). It is said that Daizu has more than 300 varieties, and using the different characteristics of each Daizu bean, the Japanese have created many specialty foods which are essential to their daily diet. Until I turned 60, I wasn’t too focused on the nutritious components of food, but out of necessity, I started looking at what I should eat and what I shouldn’t. Beans are recommended by health experts as one of the best food groups, and soybeans seem to be the super star of all beans. It is low calorie and has a good amount of protein, complex carbohydrates, and fiber. Looking at the nutritious components, you probably could have a balanced meal eating soybeans alone although the idea of eating beans three times a day suppresses my appetite.

The byproducts of Daizu are so commonplace in food culture that I believe many Japanese don’t even realize how much of their diet is made from Daizu. The most prominent byproduct is Shouyu (soy sauce). We cannot talk about Japanese food without soy sauce. Even many local stores I go to in rural Massachusetts carry it. The next well-known product is Miso. Miso is used to make quintessential Japanese soup, Miso-soup, and used as a seasoning for variety of dishes. Third is Tofu, which in recent years has gained popularity as a healthy meat substitute. Less popular overseas, but loved by many Japanese, include Natto (fermented soy – a popular topping for white rice), Okara (soy pulp – another popular accompaniment for white rice), Kinako (sweet soy powder – often sprinkled over sticky mochi rice to make a dessert), and Tounyuu (soy milk – milk substitute). Their dependency on soybeans as a source of protein seems to have begun when Buddhism came to Japan around the sixth century and banned the slaughtering of animals. Some Buddhists practice a vegetarian diet called Shoujin Ryori (in adherence to Buddhist teaching). You can experience Japanese style vegetarian meals at Shoujin Ryori restaurants. Many of their vegetarian dishes include soy products, and you’ll be surprised how satisfying they are to your taste palate. There is no meat, fish, or eggs, but your digestive system will thank you for the benefits of soy products. As mentioned, it is low calorie with plenty of vegetable protein, antioxidants, and other vitamins. It lowers your cholesterol and helps you to lose weight. Their daily consumption of Daizu and its byproducts make many Japanese look youthful, healthy, and physically fit.

soybeans, tofu, soy milk, soy sauce, edamame
Soybeans and its byproducts


A: ご注文(ちゅうもん)は、お決(き)まりになりましたか?

B: はい、僕(ぼく)は生(なま)ビール中(ちゅう)ジョッキ、それから枝豆(えだまめ)湯豆腐(ゆどうふ)がんもどきもお願(ねが)いします。

C: わたしも、生ビールの中ジョッキ。大豆(だいず)ものばかり頼(たの)んだから、鳥(とり)の唐揚げ(からあげ)をお願いします。

A: はい、ではご注文を繰(く)り返(かえ)させていただきます。生ビール中ジョッキをお二(ふた)つ、鳥の唐揚げをお一つ(ひとつ)、枝豆と湯豆腐とがんもどきもお一つずつでよろしいですか?

B: はい、だいじょうです。 

B: さっき、大豆ものばかりって言ったけど、大豆なんて頼んでないよ。

C: えーっ、枝豆って大豆の赤(あか)ちゃんでしょ。お豆腐もがんもどきもみんな大豆からできているのよ。知(し)らないの?

B: まじで? 知らなかった。

C: ちょっと、日本人(にほんじん)なんだから大豆からできる食べ物(たべもの)ぐらい知らなきゃ恥(は)ずかしいわよ。

B: そうだね。勉強(べんきょう)しまーす。


お決まりになる Have you decided (what to order)? Creating a respect tone with お+ますform+になる。Compare 決まる vs.決める

生ビール n. draft beer

中ジョッキ n. medium size mug. Derived from an English word: jug. Draft beer is served in a small, medium, or large jug in Japan.

枝豆 n. edamame – young soybean’s green pods. A popular side dish at Izakaya (Japanese bar).

湯豆腐 n. Tofu (soybean cake) in a hot water. Dip it in a special sauce to eat.

がんもどき n. a type of deep-fried Tofu.

大豆もの n. things related to Daizu

唐揚げ n. Japanese style fried chiken. In a way, 鳥の唐揚げ is redundant.

繰り返させていただきます 繰り返す(to repeat)+させる(let you do, a causative expression)+いただく(humble form of もらう) = Let me repeat. One can simply say 繰り返します(I repeat), but if you want to add a nuance of “allow me to repeat for you”, this complexed expression needs to be used. In the service industry, させていただく(allow me to do…) is commonly used.

ずつ  p. apiece, each

ばかり p. adds nuance of “plentiful of the same thing”. Here, “ordering too much of Daizu byproducts”

なんて p. something like. Here, “I didn’t order (something like) Daizu related things.”

まじで? Really? A colloquial expression.

ちょっと adv. Wait a second. まって is omitted. It’s an interjectionally use of ちょっと. “Wait a second! Are you kidding me?”

ぐらい p. at least, compare the other usage of くらい/ぐらい

なきゃ a colloquial use of なければ

恥ずかしい イ-adj. embarrassing/shameful