Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

by Chisato - Japan Licensed Guide
(10) Reviews

Healthy vegan food,Konjac

Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

The tuber of Devil’s tongue, also known as elephant yam, is called konjac in Japanese.

It contains glucomannan, soluble dietary fiber, and starch, and it is getting popular as a gluten-free vegan food, also known as "yam tofu".

It is originated from asian tropical regions, but its tuber is used mainly in Japan. In Edo period (samurai era in 19th century), Konnyaku Hyakusen (100 recipes of Konnyaku) was published.  It tastes good by raw, called sashimi konjac, but it is common to eat by boiling with potatoes and eggs, called oden.

 Tani san, an old lady taught us how to make Konjac from the plants.


konjac plants

The tuber crop is Araseae family same as taro. It is also called Devil’s tongue, as the shape of this tuber looks like devil's tongue, or because it contains rich oxalic acid, which avoid animal damage,  I guess.

It takes around 3 years until the tuber can be used for making konjac.

Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

Processing konjac

The tuber is milled to make flour. Then, boiled  with lime water and cooled in the wooden box to consolidate.
In some areas, konjac is formed in just round-shape like onigiri, rice ball.
Sometimes, fruits, seaweeds, and chill are added to make flavor and color. 


Wisdom to utilize ash as coagulant, called "aku"

Traditionally, in order to consolidate the jelly, ash water, called "aku 灰汁" is used instead of lime.
There are various materials to make coagulant.
  • Zatsuboku, Timber ash:  the best ash can be made by oak tree or other broad-leaf trees. conifer is not suitable for making ash.
  •  Warabai, Straw ash: relatively stable compared to timber ash.
  • Mamegara, bean husk ash: makes konjac tasty, according to villagers

Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

Ash is diluted by water many times, and it takes around 2-3 days to be ready to use.
It depends on the ingredient of the ash, and also water content, and strength of the ash (concentration), and there is no recipe to make the harshness from the ash.

"Every year, it is different", said tani san.

concentration of aku depends on its material and how it was made.
so, farmers taste the aku, and see the concentration.

It is difficult to adjust the amount, and nowadays young people prefer to use lime or sodium carbonate.
Learning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural JapanLearning how to process vegan food, Devil's tongue, Konjac in rural Japan

how to learn?

There are many places to teach how to make konjac in rural area.
Usually villagers make konjac in winter season during December to February.
In kansai region, Kyoto, Iga, Nara have several programs about konjac.

Fee: around 1,500~2,000 yen
Duration: 2-3 hours
Place to learn: nara, mie, kyoto, and many other places

Did you like my article?

You can send me a message to get a customized itinerary and quotation for an unforgettable experience. Let's explore Japan Together.

I'll be waiting for you, so please check my profile and get your trip plan now

08 Jun 2017


Licensed Guide
(10) Reviews

Plan your trip to Japan with Chisato

Chat with a local tour guide who can help organize your trip.
Send a message

Recent Tour Reviews

“ Great tour in Nara ”

9 months ago Traveler: Luis -   Tour Guide: Chisato

I had a wonderful time in Nara with Chisato as my guide. Chisato helped me schedule a one day tour of Nara with all of the sites that I wanted to see including a tea ceremony experience. She was very attentive as she guided me through Nara and explained the history and details of each site. Chisato communicates very well in English and she is very intelligent. She was flexible during the tour ...
read more

“ Tea Farm Guide ”

Very Good
11 months ago Traveler: Amy -   Tour Guide: Chisato

I had a great time with Chisato. She met us at the station, showed us around Uji, and took us all the way to the tea farm. She was a nice guide and we had a great time.
read more

“ Wonderful day in Nara and hiking the Yamanobe no Michi "Ancient Trail" ”

11 months ago Traveler: Geoff -   Tour Guide: Chisato

During my day with Chisato we spent the morning visiting the Todaji-ji Shrine, Nara Park and other key sites. From there we boarded the JR train and headed to the trailhead of the Yamanobe no Michi ancient trail. We sauntered along the trail visiting the Mika Shrine, the Hirara Shrine, Genpien Temple, Stone Pagoda and garden, a waterfall, fruit farms, a medicinal plant garden, and stopping to cha...
read more

“ Unique and educational tour away from the crowds. ”

11 months ago Traveler: Eric -   Tour Guide: Chisato

It was so nice to get away from the crowded sites in Kyoto and Nara and out into the country and see things that few tourist get to see. Wild plant foraging, kudzu starch, and koji fungus production were real highlights of our trip. If you have a specific interest in wild plants or herbal medicine you'll get a lot out of this tour. Chisato picked us up right in our hotel lobby, and was very ac...
read more

“ Nara soy sauce expedition ”

1 year ago Traveler: Quentin -   Tour Guide: Chisato

I had a really great day being driven around the Nara prefecture by Chisato. She has a passion for traditional Japanese food production, and was the perfect guide with whom to visit four traditional soy sauce manufacturers and a miso maker, all on one snow-filled day. We started early and finished late, and Chisato's enthusiasm and professionalism never wavered even when we realised the rental ...
read more

“ Uji / Wazuka tea farm tour ”

1 year ago Traveler: Dev -   Tour Guide: Chisato

Chisato took me on a day trip from Kyoto to visit a great new tea company & farm in Uji. I have long been an avid tea drinker, but I did not know the history and farming process for Green Tea. Chisato provided great reading material on the way to the Farm, which helped me familiarize myself with the tea plant and process to grow and harvest tea. When we arrived, we were taken on a nice tour of the...
read more

“ outstanding tea-experience ”

1 year ago Traveler: Kirsten -   Tour Guide: Chisato

chisato organised an excellent tea experience for us. She has customised the tour precisely to our wishes. We visited a tea farmer family. We got the opportunity to pick tea flowers on their farm. Afterwards the tea farmer served various dishes containing tea leaves. We did taste different kinds of tea. At last we visited local tea traders. We owe her an unforgettable day and this unique tea exper...
read more

“ An exceptional tour guide ”

1 year ago Traveler: Andrew -   Tour Guide: Chisato

We asked Chisato to help us with two unique and custom agricultural and craft tours, and not only did she research and organize what we were looking for but she did considerable additional work on her own time to make sure everything went smoothly. We would highly recommend Chisato for any tour.
read more

“ Fantastic 5 days! ”

1 year ago Traveler: Sandra -   Tour Guide: Chisato

I spent 5 days with Chisato; 2 of which were spent exploring medicinal herbs and farming outside of Kyoto. Chisato is extremely enthusiastic and knowledgable about agriculture. She is always eager to share her experiences which makes the trips so much more than your usual run-of-the-mills tours. Chisato is a wonderful, detail-oriented guide that I would not hesitate to recommend to others!
read more

“ Day trips to Kyoto surrounds ”

1 year ago Traveler: Michelle -   Tour Guide: Chisato

I had the pleasure of two very full days with Chisato visiting areas of particular interest to me around Kyoto. She went out of her way to offer a customised tour most well suited to me and was very flexible in adapting to my changing travel plans in the weeks leading up to my visit. She is very knowledgeable and especially passionate about her special areas of interest which include food and a...
read more

Related cities