Musings from Kyoto Japan, mostly on Mushrooms, Food, Travel and the like


How to Make Simple Medicinal Mushroom Extracts (part one – the alcohol tincture)

Reishi in my garden (1)

Reishi, aka Ganoderma lucidum, undisputed heavyweight champion of medicinal mushrooms. I harvested these for my extracts last July from the grounds of a forest temple here in Kyoto.


To the left, a tincture (alcohol extraction) to the right a decoction (water extraction). To get the most out of your medicinal mushrooms, combine the two in a single concoction (blend).

Greetings! If you are reading this, I take it you are interested in making some medicinal mushrooms, so here we go, I’ll outline the basics. Before we start, I should point out that I won’t be delving into complex techniques or terminology such as extraction ratios, (if you want to know about those, and bags of good info, check here), or carefully measuring out each milligramme and milliliter of ingredients. Nor am I talking industrial scale production. I’ll just show how I make medicinal mushroom extracts, for me and my significant other, here in our small wood and paper house in Kyoto, Japan. I’ll keep it simple.

By the way, it’s a long post. You might like to pull up a chair.

From start to finish the process takes about 4 weeks, less if you are in a hurry. The most complex equipment you’ll need is a big pan, or pressure cooker, and some glass jars.

Double, Double, Boil & Bubble

The method I’ll describe is what is known as a double or dual extraction. Simply put, mushrooms contain health-giving components that need to be eked out using one of two methods: boiling in water, or steeping in alcohol. If you only do one part of the two-step process, fine, but you’ll miss out on half the good stuff. More on the good stuff later.

If you are going to use mushrooms you found in the forest, don’t forget the mushroom gatherer’s timeless advice: “All wild mushrooms are edible. Once”.

Firstly, you’ll need some mushrooms. I am fortunate, living in Japan, in that I can source fresh medicinal mushrooms – maitake, shiitake, enokidake, shimeji, etc – inexpensively at farmer’s markets and organic stores and supermarkets pretty much year-round. My Kyoto house is not far from the hills, so foraging is not difficult either. I’ll write more about that another time, but if you are going to use mushrooms you found in the forest, don’t forget the mushroom gatherer’s timeless advice: All wild mushrooms are edible. Once.

Drying Yanagimatsutake.jpg

Sun drying Yanagimatsutake. Get double quantity and make a risotto with the other half. Awesome!

I almost always use dried mushrooms when making my concoctions (that’s not a rude word in these circles, by the way). Using fresh mushrooms is fine, but sun drying ups the Vitamin D content exponentially (good for vegans and vegetarians), and of course it makes storing and handling that much easier.

While we are here, drying some species of mushroom – porcini, yanagimatsutake, cèpes, boletes – then reconstituting them by adding water, makes them even tastier than when fresh. There’s a chemical explanation for this, I’m sure. I just don’t know what it is. Flavonoids? This man likely knows the answer.

First, take some Mushrooms

So, here we go. First, take your mushrooms, make sure they are clean, chop them into small pieces, dry them, and you are ready to go. Sounds easy, right? Well, it is, unless of course one of the mushrooms you have chosen happens to be or good friend, the incomparable, Ganoderma lucidum or reishi. These are seriously tough mushrooms. Literally tough. Not so long ago my mushroom comrade in arms Irish Tom and I managed to splinter an electric saw blade trying to slice up a particularly feisty example.

Sliced reishi 2 (1)

Look for grain to cut across when slicing reishi. The first cuts across the cap are the toughest. Across the slice is easier.

A simple way to get around the problem is to buy ready-cut reishi chips, or commercially-produced dried mushrooms which are generally easy (easier, more accurately) to slice. For the latter a good heavy-handled knife is handy, as is a hefty chopping board on a stable surface. Experiment slicing across the cap until you find a ‘grain’ that is easier to follow. Even with store-bought reishi, expect to work up a sweat. You might like to play some relaxing music. Or thrash metal. For a super hard shroom from the forest you’ll need a saw.

Fortunately, many dried mushrooms are easy to make smaller, and often you can pull them apart by hand – a very satisfying feeling (or is that just me?) – or cut them with kitchen scissors. Some crumble to the touch.

The choice of mushrooms is pretty much up to you, and of course you can include different mushroom species in one concoction. If you are creating a medicinal mushroom extract to suit a particular health condition, or to protect in advance against a certain ailment, then you can tailor your mycological ‘mix and match’ to suit. I’ll write on which mushrooms are most suitable for which conditions here at a later date.

Steep, then Boil (or, if you are weird, boil, then steep) 

To recap, we are looking at a duel extraction process here, with two steps, using alcohol and water. That is to say, steeping the mushrooms in alcohol (making a tincture) and boiling the mushrooms in water (making a decoction). You can do this with the same batch of mushrooms. Indeed, this is the least wasteful approach, and the most cost effective. You get more out of your mushrooms this way.

However, if you decide to make a tincture with one batch of mushrooms, and a decoction with another set of mushrooms – the other half of your harvest, perhaps – and keep them separate, that’s fine too.

eggsThere is some debate in which order you should do the dual extraction. I’m a steep first, boil later guy. Some dudes go for the boil, then steep. Huh? It’s a bit like Jonathan Swift’s debate over which end you should eat your boiled egg from. I guess I’m a Big Endian, Steep Firster. There is evidence that both processes, whichever you choose, may slightly reduce the effectiveness of the second step, but for our purposes, the difference is negligible. My reason for steeping in alcohol first is that it is easy, and I’m putting off the (only slightly) less easy bit till later.


Mushrooms and vodka

First step: steep your mushrooms in alcohol. 40% – 50% proof vodka is just the job.

Making the tincture (at last, I hear you say)

Clean a large glass jar, and fill to the half way point with your mushrooms. Then fill to the brim with 40~50% proof vodka. Try to not let any air remain. As you’ll see from the above, there’s no point in splashing cash with fine quality alcohol, as your final concoction will taste of, well, mushrooms. With reishi in there, bitter mushrooms.

A jar with a handle on top is, well, handy, as you can easily agitate it, that is to say, shake it up and down like someone possessed. To get the most from your mushrooms it is recommended you do this daily, but it’s not a catastrophe if you forget. Whilst agitating I suggest you put on a Pointer Sisters record and pretend to yourself you are doing a 1980s aerobics workout. Just don’t let anyone see you do this. If you are reading this in Japan, Seria has perfect jars at ¥100 a pop.

Leave your medicinal mushrooms in a cool, dark place for 4 weeks, agitating daily. That can include making ‘F#c% Trump!’ placards and encouraging youth to vote. Over time the mixture may cloud, but worry not, that’s normal. A water extraction clouds even more so.

I recommend you label your jars with the date laid down, the type of mushrooms within, and whether the contents are a tincture (alcohol) or an extraction (water). It’s easy to forget, if you don’t. You can scrawl on them with a marker pen, or print dainty labels. I like to label mine in, er, Latin. Yes, I know the ‘Pretentious, moi?’-ometer just broke off the top of the scale, but I like it. There’s also another reason for using scientific names, which I’ll get to in another post sometime. Et voilà, your tincture.

Come back here in four weeks for the next exciting installment, aka, How to Make Simple Medicinal Mushroom Extracts (part two – the water decoction).

Man holding mushroom jar

Store your tincture in a cool, dark place for about four weeks, agitating daily. Yeah!





Still alive and kicking

It’s been a long while since the last post, but just mentioning I’m still here, still in Japan. look forward to new adventures.




Help us to Help Nepal – Please Sponsor Me on our May 31st Walk 2015 KAMOGAWA 10km スポンサーウォーク


Our Nepali friends carrying relief supplies into the quake-stricken Nawakot province


Our little girl Laxmi at the Laliguras Childrens’ Home in Kathmandu

English follows Japanese.「2015 KAMOGAWA 10km スポンサーウォーク」 日時:2015 年 5 月31 日(日) コース: 三条̶北山̶三条の鴨川沿い約10km 途上国に住む子供の教育や生活の支援を目的に鴨川沿い10km を歩く 「KAMOGAWA 10km スポンサーウォーク」を今年も開催します。このイ ベントは2005 年に始まり、今年で11 年目を数えます。ご存知の通り、先 日5 月25 日にネパールで大きな地震がありました。私たちが支援を続けて いるカトマンズの孤児院「Laliguras Children’s Home」も、孤児院の子供 達にけが等の被害はなかったものの、建物等が損傷し、近隣に住む人々も 様々な被害を受けました。今年は、例年寄付を送っているジンバブエのエイ ズ孤児支援NPO「Zienzele Foundation」に加え、この孤児院に、できるだ け多くの寄付金を届けられればと思っています。


Quake Damage in Navakot

「スポンサーウォーク」は日本ではあまり聞き慣れないイベントですが、欧 米では一般的によく行われているチャリティイベントの形式です。参加者 (「ウォーカー」)は、自分が目的を達成する(今回は10km 歩くこと)の を支援してくれる「スポンサー」をできるだけ多く募ります。「スポンサー」 は、「ウォーカーが目的を達成したらスポンサー料を支払う」ことをウォー カーに約束し、支援金額はスポンサーが決めます。イベント後、ウォーカー は自分のスポンサー全員から支援金を集め、それが寄付金となります。 2 005 年に行われた第1 回「ウォーク」では、参加者は19 人。少人数なが らも約50 万円が集まりました。そして、毎年、参加者数、スポンサー数、 寄付金ともに増え続け、昨年は参加者56 名、スポンサーのべ741 人、集ま った額は、1,221,200 円になりました。 これまでの寄付金は、主に、ジンバブエでは子供たちが学校に通うための費 用、ネパールの孤児院では学費、生活費に使われてきました。特に2006 年 度はスポンサーウォークと秋に行ったチャリティコンサートで集まった金額 を合わせ、ジンバブエでフィールドワークを行うためのミニバス購入費用を 贈ることができました。(2011 年にも、もう一台購入) 昨年は、この2 団 体に加え、ラオスの妊婦とインドの子供達を支援する団体、カンボジアで行 われている二つのプロジェクト、ネパールの村の図書館プロジェクトにも寄 付をしました。 このスポンサーウォークは、基本的に友人どうしが声をかけあって行う小規 模のイベントです。そのため、宣伝費や運営費はなく、寄付金は、送金費用 を差し引いた全ての金額が振り込まれます。こんな小さなイベントですが、 皆様のご支援で、途上国で暮らす多くの子供たちやその家族の暮らしを変え ることは可能です。 生まれや育ちがどこであっても、安全で快適な 生活を送る人としての権利は世界中の誰もが持っているはずです。ぜひ、ご 協力をお願いします!

Slide22 Slide23

2015 Kamogawa 10km Sponsored Walk Date: May 31st, 2015 (Sunday) Course: Approx. 10 km (Sanjo to Kitayama and back to Sanjo on the banks of the Kamogawa) The “Kamogawa 10km Sponsored Walk” started in 2005, making this the 11th year of this event. Following on from last year, we will hold the “Walk” in support of the “Zienzele Foundation”, an NPO that supports AIDS orphans in Zimbabwe, however, given the terrible news from Nepal on May 25th we will now be sending a great deal of the money to help our friends at the Laliguras Children’s Home repair their damaged building and lives and also help their neighbours. In Japan, sponsored events are not as common as they are in western countries. For those who are not very familiar with the method, here is a quick explanation. A walker collects “sponsors” (as many as possible) who are willing to support him/herself to achieve the target (walking 10km for this event). The “sponsors” then pledge to “pay sponsor money to the walker in order to achieve the target.” (amount is decided on by each sponsor.) After the event, the walker collects the money from all his/her sponsors, and hands it in. On the first “Walk” in 2005, there were 19 walkers and they raised over 500,000 yen. Since then, the number of walkers and the amount of money raised has increased.


In Kathmandu

Last year, there were 56 walkers and they raised an amazing 1,221, 200 yen from 741 sponsors. Nearly all the money we have raised so far has been used for educational fees for the children in Zimbabwe and the educational and living costs for the children in the Laliguras Children’s Home, Nepal. In 2006, we combined the “Walk” money and the money raised from a charity concert in the autumn, and donated the money to the Zienzele Foundation in Zimbabwe to purchase a mini bus to be used in their fieldwork efforts. Last year we donated an extra 300,000 yen to help pregnant women in Laos and Indian school children, and also gave money to two projects in Cambodia and a village school library project in Nepal.

Screen Shot 2015-05-03 at 01.09.59

This sponsored walk is a small event that is organized around a group of friends. Therefore, there are no expenses incurred for promotion or operating costs, and all the money raised (except for sending fees) will be donated directly to the supported organizations. With your help, we hope to help as many children and their families as possible in the developing world achieve a better standard of life, now and for the future. We are all brothers and sisters in this world, and we all deserve the same quality of life regardless of where we were born and who we are.

Organizer: Kevin Ramsden


Nuwakot before the Earthquake

Vegetable Life エドワード・ウェストンに敬意を表して

I took this earlier this week at Chuck Kayser’s organic farm, O.K.Fields in Kutsuki, Shiga. Memories of Edward Weston! These are destined for the Tomato sauce at Cafe Foodelica. これから美味しいオーガニックトマトソースになります!


Deep Kyoto Walks E-book Now Available on Amazon, with Ramblings by Yours Truly in “Gods, Monks, Secrets, Fish”



Edited by Michael Lambe and Ted Taylor, it’s a great collection of meditative strolls by long-term residents of Kyoto, and all-round cool people. And me. It sez ‘ere: “Deep Kyoto: Walks is a new anthology of 18 meditative strolls in Japan’s ancient cultural capital. Independently produced by 16 writers who have made their home in Kyoto, this book is both a tribute to life in the city of “Purple Hills and Crystal Streams”, and a testament to the art of contemplative city walking. In a series of rambles that express each writer’s intimate relationship with the city, they take you not only to the most famous shrines and temples, but also to those backstreets of memory where personal history and the greater story of the city intersect. Join Pico Iyer, Judith Clancy, Chris Rowthorn, John Dougill, Robert Yellin, John Ashburne and more as they explore markets and mountains, bars and gardens, palaces and pagodas and show us Kyoto afresh through the eyes of those who call it “home”.

dogen[1]_0My walk, entitled “Gods, Monks, Secrets, Fish” starts at the place where this fellow, Zen-Patriarch and proto-Foodie Dogen, (pictured left) ‘left the building’, and finishes at the sacred well in Nishiki Tenmangu. En route I stop off for some fine seafood at Daiyasu, and sample some of the great foodstuffs that are available in the Nishiki Market Arcade. At some point I go on seemingly unconnected asides about the French, the Vikings, Locusts, etc. If you’d like a wee taster, please pardon the pun, Michael has kindly put up this link on his Deep Kyoto website. The full kit and caboodle can be purchased for a very reasonable fee at that well-known purveyor of words named after a large rainforest, here. And here, for you patient readers who kindly got this far, is a bit of Dogen that didn’t make it into my walk:

“Through one word, or seven words, or three times five, even if you investigate thoroughly myriad forms, nothing can be depended upon. Night advances, the moon glows and falls into the ocean. The black dragon jewel you have been searching for, is everywhere”


Invitation to Contributors for Kyoto Journal 82 – the Food Issue


As many of you already know, I am the Guest Editor for the upcoming Kyoto Journal Issue, ‘Food’. Here is the gist of our invitation letter. Enjoy, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you think that you – or someone you know – might be interested in submitting. Bon apetit! (PS, that’s not the actual cover, although I rather like it – Natto in my genkan).

We sincerely hope that you find some personal interest in this, our new project.
We’re very eager to hear suggestions and ideas for content for this issue.
And if you know anyone else who may also be interested, please do pass this on to them…



 “Some dishes seem to be charged with a psychic energy, a mana which makes them attract attention, generate interest, stimulate debate, inspire controversy and debates about authenticity. The same is true of certain artists” – John Lanchester, ‘The Gourmet’

 “A great dish is the master achievement of countless generations” – Curnonsky

 “The universe is nothing without the things that live in it, and everything that lives eats” – Brillat-Savarin

 “Much of the pleasure of food is a flirtation with decay” – Sean French, “First Catch Your Puffin”

We adore it, we abhor it, we need it, we leave it. Without it, we exist not. Food pervades every area of our thought and existence. Food allows us to live, when we are privileged enough to have it. It sustains us. It inspires us. It enslaves us. It educates us. It may kill us. It allows us to communicate with the Gods.

Your food is not mine, nor mine is yours, but we may share it, and in so doing, what joy. The sloth and the wolf eat, but only humans dine. Sometimes upon each other. There are rules for what we eat, and how. There are those who tell us what we should ingest. There are those who say we are what we eat. There are those who say we eat what we are.

Few remain silent on Food. And why would one? What a natural topic for discussion, discourse, eulogy, outrage, comedy, reflection, prayer, ire, poetry, love. Food defies time. It exists in the memory and the here and now. It is simultaneouslyuniversal and particular, literal and metaphoric, indelibly bound with meaning on an infinite variety of levels. Yet let’s not forget, it is also life-affirming, edible, incredible fun, a celebration of life itself. And so many of its greatest exponents and proponents live here in Asia.

 For all of the above reasons, we look forward with great anticipation to Kyoto Journal’s 82nd issue, due out in winter 2014 — our long-awaited special on Food. We seek tales, observations, musings: a sumptuous buffet of interesting, unusual ideas on Asian-related food and food lore. Coffee-table tomes already exist on everything from kaiseki menu planning to dining preferences amongst the headhunters of Borneo …so we are not looking for more of the same, including recipes or restaurant reviews. What we arehoping for is a balance of the personal and the profound, articles that mix wit, gravitas, novelty and spontaneity that will surprise and delight even the most jaded reader’s palate. Let us know what you’d like to cook up for what will surely be a memorable KJ feast!

—KJ 82 Guest Editor, John Ashburne


Kyoto Journal is a long-established non-profit, all-volunteer-based digital quarterly. Contributors receive a complimentary subscription, worldwide readership, and our deepest appreciation!

See also KJ 71, our wide-ranging special issue on Tea, guest-edited by Gaetano Kazuo Maeda:

My Photos Go Global! 初めて三大陸で同時に僕の写真が展示されています!

This week – it’s May 7th, 2014 today – has been a good one, photographically speaking. My photos, see below, are simultaneously hanging on walls on three continents, a first for me. I am also getting paid a decent amount of money. Feels great! 写真家の僕にとっては嬉しい一週間となりました。
現在、初めて三大陸で同時に僕の写真が展示されています。(京都/KG+@Cafe Foodelica、ロンドン/ユニリーヴァコーポレーション、サンタフェ/旧総監邸ニューメキシコ歴史博物館)These images are from top left , clockwise: ‘Beautiful Woman, Jaipur, India‘, currently licensed to the Unilever Corporation and blown up large at their in-house event in London; ‘War Zone’, part of the Hibiku 響 group exhibition/KG+ at Cafe Foodelica, Kyoto; and ‘Birthing Stonehenge’, a pinhole anamorphic image on show in the ‘Poetics of Light’ and in the permanent collection of the New Mexico History Museum Palace of the Governors, Santa Fe. I am doubly happy that the images are not only reaching a wide audience, but also represent three very different areas of my photographic work. I have shown once before in Buenos Aires, so I guest next stop: Tuvalu!


India Food File ある一日の食事

Writing this at The Manor, a boutique hotel in one of Delhi’s wealthy, southern suburbs. The air is full of birdsong and car horns, and it’s a cool 18 degrees, almost chilly after the heat of Kerala. As ever, the food has been a highlight of the trip, though S and I both agree that the standard was universally higher on our last visit to India. Sorry Kerala, too much adulteration for the tourists, and attendant complacency. Though there were some outstanding exceptions – notably the Old Lighthouse Bristow Hotel in Kochi & some of the dishes at the Fragrant Nature resort in Kollam – Tamil Nadu wins hands down. Here’s a ‘Day in the Life’ snapshot of my Kerala repasts – details below in Japanese and English.



左上~右下:朝ご飯:プトゥ[ココナッツごはん]とひよこ豆「カダラ」カレー;お昼ご飯:野菜カレ「ジャルフレージ」と五目炒飯。ウエイターのJobyにインド料理と中国料理!と怪訝そうに例の頭振りジェスチャーをされる。 おやつ:カレー風味野菜かき揚げ(インゲン/人参/ピーマン)と『スペシャル・ティー』ビール;晩ご飯:魚(ジャンバリと言う生節ぽいやつ)のステーキとレモンライス添え

Top L to Bottom R: Breakafast, Kadala Chickpea Curry with Putu, a steamed mix of coconut and rice; Lunch, Vegetable Jalfrezi with Mixed Fried Rice (‘Indian and Chinese!’ exclaimed the waiter, Mr Joby, with much head wobbling); Tiffin, Vegetable Pakora and ‘Special Tea’; Dinner, Fillet of Jambali Fish (Sea Bass?).

Here’s my article on S.Pellegrino’s ‘Best Restaurant in Asia’ for Destinasian

I hope you can read this OK.Nariswa

Thanks to Narisawa-san’s remarkable generosity I sampled ALL of the below in a feast which lasted around three hours, an incredible experience. These are my pics:

Narisawa ASH 2009 Ika_0122

Squid, succulent and sublime

Narisawa Evolve with the Forest_0203

‘Evolve with the Forest’

Narisawa Fugu 2_0065


Narisawa Horse Crab 2_0017

Horse Crab Gelée

Narisawa Langoustine 2_0168


Narisawa Rockfish 2_0212

Rockfish, oh boy

Narisawa Soil Soup_0255

The legendary ‘Soil Soup’. Yes, it is made from soil, from atop a Nagano mountain, no less

Narisawa OKINAWA 2_0047

Pork, Okinawan style, in a dashi of konbu and seasnake. It was awesome.

Narisawa Winter Spring_0326


Narisawa Hida Beef & Charcoal 3_0041

Hida Beef in charcoal. Yes, you eat the charcoal too.

Narisawa Oyster Baked in Charcoal_0236

Oyster baked in, you guessed it, charcoal

Narisawa Suppon_0001

Suppon, snapping turtle

Narisawa Koshu Sake 2_0038

Koshu, aged sake, reminded me of Armagnac

Narisawa Yoshihiro 3_0118

Il Maestro, Yoshiro Narisawa


My New – Old – Wheels