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Text & photos: Joanna Kawecki


In Myōkō in Niigata prefecture, a region in Japan that sees some of the country’s heaviest snowfall, one family-led company harnesses the power of snow in their fermentation process of making ‘kanzuri’ fermented chilli paste. The traditional condiment utilises just three ingredients —  tōgarashi (chilli peppers), yuzu (citrus) and kōji (rice mold) — and is specifically defined by its unique geography found in the Jōetsu snow region. 

Kanzuri production initially begins in August to November, where large chilli peppers are first harvested and pickled in water and sea salt. Then, on the coldest day of the year in January, an annual gathering for ‘yuki sarashi’ begins where the pickled chilli peppers are thrown atop fresh white snow and left to rest for 3-4 days. This signals the start of the fermentation process, where gloved and aproned staff distribute the subtly fragrant, bright red chillies onto the pure white snow. The exposure to snow draws out any bitterness in the peppers, increasing their natural sweetness and amplifying flavour. 

Once ready, the peppers are then ground and mixed together with yuzu and kōji to age for 3-6 years in large plastic barrels. Kanzuri Co Ltd, the artisanal producer and current sole maker of kanzuri now helmed by the family’s third-generation son, continues to make it in the traditional handmade method since 1966.

Joanna Kawecki
Tokyo-based Editor and Journalist specialising in design and architecture. She co-founded Ala Champ Magazine in 2009, and also leads Champ Creative, an international consultancy, editorial production and special projects studio in fashion, art and design.

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