Written and illustrated by Misa Ono
The Japanese have been using koji to produce seasonings and sake for more than 1000 years. Using those scientific experiences and technology, we have made uses of the koji enzyme for various industries other than foods. Koji enzymes are made of protein and they decompose or synthesize various kinds of chemical compounds. Although it is made of protein, it breaks protein as well. Koji does a lot of such magic!
Koji enzymes also can become part of digestive medicine. It has the power to dissolve the dirt on your body; therefore, there are detergents, soap, and even enzyme baths using the power of the koji enzyme! It seems putting koji enzyme in the bath can dissolve pore-clogging debris. Wow, I would like to try such a bath! There are also skin-care products, supplements, and food coloring. The food coloring is made from beni-koji which is red colored. Isn’t it so interesting that we can make so many useful things for our living out of mold which was originally attached to rice?
Farmers use various kinds of molds for compost and koji is one of them. If you breed koji and other molds with rice bran, you can make great compost. You can grow vegetables with the compost, pickle the vegetables with the rice bran, and have some rice with pickles. Furthermore, it is said that enzymes may be able to break down food, lumber, and animals waste, which means they may be able to be used for recyclable energy, biomass. How economical!
Other than koji, there are so many useful molds for our living such as lactic acid bacteria, yeast, acetobacter, etc. However, we sometimes kill them with pesticides and sterilizers. There are surely harmful molds for us, but at the same time we kill good ones as well. I hope we learn more about their ecology, so we can be friendly to them and live together.