Menma Harvested from City Help Revitalize Local Economy

The Yomiuri Shimbun
Menma made of bamboo shoots grown in Machida, Tokyo, and seasoned with soy sauce made by a local manufacturer.

MACHIDA, Tokyo — A unique local project to support the natural environment and the economy by processing substandard bamboo shoots from unmanaged groves to make menma fermented bamboo shoots is underway in Machida, Tokyo.

There are 300 hectares of bamboo groves in the city, according to its agricultural promotion division. Some of the land is privately owned. However, many of the groves that are owned by the city itself have been left unattended.

The city developed a project in March of last year to utilize and conserve its satoyama wooded forests, aiming to make the most of its resources and enhance their value. It produced about 10 kilograms of menma in May, using young bamboo in the satoyama that was harvested by a local citizens group the Onoji Bamboo Club.

Moso bamboo, which grows wild in the city’s Onojimachi district, is said to have a stronger umami flavor and softer texture than machiku bamboo that accounts for more than 90% of menma distributed in Japan.

The Yomiuri Shimbun
A bamboo grove in the Onojimachi district of the city

Encouraged by positive feedback about the local menma, the city signed a comprehensive cooperation agreement this past March with Local Bamboo Inc., a company based in Nobeoka, Miyazaki Prefecture, that makes use of abandoned bamboo groves to revitalize local economy.

“We expect Local Bamboo to not only let others know about our menma production, but also spread the word on our activities to appreciate satoyama,” said Machida Mayor Joichi Ishizaka. “We hope our project will set a precedent for solving the nationwide issue of satoyama preservation.”

As part of the project, the Onoji Bamboo Club will hold a workshop in mid-May where citizens can cut substandard young bamboo growing naturally on city-owned land.