How Tofu is Made on Mount Oyama in Kanagawa

By Ashley Owen
Updated: May 12, 2021

Ever since it was introduced from China, tofu has been a key ingredient in Japanese cuisine. From soft silken tofu to firmer blocks, this versatile and healthy food can be enjoyed hot or cold, raw or deep-fried, in soup or as inarizushi. But have you ever wondered how tofu is made?

In this video, Phoebe Amoroso travels to Isehara at the foot of the beautiful Mount Oyama, to visit specialist tofu store Yūsuikoubou. Here, they craft delicious homemade tofu from scratch, and owner Aihara Takuya talks Phoebe through the tofu-making process before inviting her to have a go at making some herself.

Check out the video to see how she gets on, and maybe get some ideas of what to cook with tofu!

Tougakubou and Yusuikoubou signs in Isehara, Kanagawa at the tofu shop

How to Make Tofu at the Base of Mt. Oyama | Pheebz to Table

Isehara is located in Kanagawa prefecture, at the base of the popular hiking and pilgrimage spot Mount Oyama. It’s an area famous for its pure, crystal-clear water – which, as Aihara explains to Phoebe, is one of the essential components for making top grade tofu.

Tougakubou restaurant exterior in Isehara, Kanagawa

Aihara's family runs a traditional inn and restaurant just across the street, and began making their own high-quality tofu so that more people could enjoy it.

Watch the video for more details about the history of tofu-making in the Oyama area.

What is Tofu?

Tofu is a protein-rich ingredient made from soybeans, and a staple part of Japanese cuisine.

In its natural state it’s a wobbly white block with a very mild flavor, making it extremely versatile and able to absorb flavor easily. This means it can be used in all sorts of dishes, cooked in a range of different styles, and seasoned in a wide variety of ways. It’s even a popular ingredient in desserts!

And to make it, all you need is soybeans, nigari, and water.

What is Nigari?

Nigari is a type of natural salt concentration which is used as a coagulant. It’s added to the freshly-produced soy milk to help it harden and transform into tofu. Timing is key at this stage of the process, as you don’t want it to get too firm too quickly!

How is Tofu Produced?

Blocks of tofu floating in water

In the video, Aihara takes Phoebe through all the steps and explains exactly how tofu is made.

Here is a step-by-step overview of how to make tofu:

  1. Soak soybeans overnight
  2. Grind the soaked soybeans
  3. Boil the mashed soybeans (namago)
  4. Separate the mixture into tonyu (soy milk) and okara (soy pulp)
  5. Add nigari to the soy milk
  6. Pour the mixture into molds to set
  7. Transfer the blocks of tofu from the molds into water
  8. Cut the tofu into smaller squares ready to be sold

The process is fascinating to watch, and Phoebe gets to taste the fresh, warm soy milk before helping to separate it from the okara. As you’ll see in the video, this is actually quite a workout!

And then it’s on to the really fun part – tasting the finished product!

A red tray with a variety of Japanese tofu dishes at Tougakubou in Isehara, Kanagawa

Phoebe selects a fresh block and takes it over to Tougakubou to discover the versatility of tofu during an exquisite kaiseki meal.

First, she samples it fresh to savor the natural creamy flavor, then tries it with some ginger and soy sauce.

Afterwards it’s time to enjoy the okara (soy pulp) in a rich salad, firm steamed tofu with egg and vegetables, plus a unique apple and tofu dish. Check out the video for Phoebe’s verdict on the experience!

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Ashley Owen
Ashley is a freelance travel writer from the UK who spent the last two years living in Japan, and is about to embark on her next adventure to New Zealand. She's always on the lookout for exciting new vegan treats wherever she goes!
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