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The History of Konnyaku

History of Konnyaku

Konnyaku in the Past

There are many theories regarding when Konnyaku was introduced into Japan. The most cogent theory is that it might have been introduced from China as a medicine accompanied with the introduction of Buddhism during the age of Emperor Kinmei (531-571). Konnyaku was introduced as a medicine and has been eaten as a taste of home cooking in Japan for over one thousand five hundred years. In spite of its popularity and its great advantages, Konnyaku is seldom eaten outside Japan.

Initially, it was highly appreciated as a medicinal food and eaten as a therapeutic food by Buddhist monks who played the roles of doctors for a long time in Japan. Then, it became widespread among the general public and popularised. Once it became popular, its therapeutic aspects were highly appreciated and believed for a long time and some of them are still believed. For example, Konnyaku might relieve coughs and be good for tumours. It should heal frost-bitten or chilblained toes or fingers if you put them into hot water in which Konnyaku is warmed up. Or it should cool down skin burns or scalds and reduce the pain and so on.

Konnyaku has been used for a long time as an "old wives' remedy." Konnyaku has been called "a broom in the stomach" and "a cleaner in the bowels" because of its function in normalising intestinal disorders. It has often been eaten in order to excrete waste and toxic matters from the body. Medieval Japanese people knew of the benefits of Konnyaku through their experience.

The publication of the book called Konnyaku Hyakuchin 蒟蒻百珍 (100 recipes of Konnyaku) in 1846 shows how much Konnyaku was loved by Japanese people in those days. After its publication, those recipes of Konnyaku became popular. Many of the recipes in Konnyaku Hyakuchin are still loved and eaten at the family table and are part of domestic Japanese culinary tastes.

Konnyaku at the Present

Japanese people knew that Konnyaku was good for the health through their experience. Recently it has been scientifically proved that Konnyaku really is good for the health. Nowadays many people are trying to be slim and to prevent adult diseases (arteriosclerosis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, constipation, gallstone, and haemorrhoids). Many people are more health conscious and try to eat health food and not to take many food additives. Konnyaku has recently attracted those people a lot.

Konnyaku is very low in calories, and full of dietary fibre and minerals. Moreover, it is a totally natural food. In Japan, Konnyaku is widely perceived as a health food. That is why Konnyaku jelly and a Konnyaku diet are booming in Japan.


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Modified on 20 Sep 2008