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

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

If anyone would care to come to a Photo Exhibit in Kyoto (and one or two parties), this Saturday, please feel free…

It is a low key affair. If you come to the Pot Luck party (4pm to 7pm), please bring along a tangerine or something.

Hope to see you there.

京都市左京区 カフェアルバイト募集!Cool cafe coming soon!

京都市左京区修学院 cafe Foodelica アルバイト募集中

Blogging on the Tour de France again from tomorrow

Regular Customers

Lisa B and mum at Caffe Dell’ Orso


I Have Seen the Face of God

Well, not quite. But something almost as awe-inspiring. The V-12 Jaguar engine at the business end of an E-type. Ye Gods Have Mercy.



Happy Birthday Private Eye – 50 Years Young

Some favourite covers over the years:

Send me your faves.







Komyoin Diptych

One of Tofukuji’s sub-temples.

Honenin (after Hockney)

Imitation being the sincerest form of flattery and all that. Hockney was a Bradford lad too, don’t you know. This was intended as part of a series of temple images where I play with perspective in an attempt to get that Zazen meditation feel. The series currently stands at… two.

Exhibit Number 1, M’Lud. Jaguar XJS, 1993. 43000km. British Racing Green.


大正時代のむらさき切子皿?Anybody know what this is?

I just bought this glass plate this weekend. I am guessing it is kiriko cut glass, from the Taisho Period (1912-1926), but if anyone knows better/more, I’d love to hear from you. サイズ:φ24.5cm/4.5cm/45mm 素材:ガラス There was something similar on sale here, but I prefer this design. It’s got a kinda masonic-bird-Art Deco thing going on. I also like that the round parts aren’t perfectly round, and the glass has bubbles in it, and the dark brownish-purple colour is shibui (sorry, my photos don’t really do it justice). Anybody know where it might be from? I know there is a difference between Edo, Otaru and Satsuma kiriko, other than the obvious geographical one (I once learned, but have forgotten). Thanks!

The Travelling Gourmet: Story on Kyoto’s Foodie Hotspots

Recognise this fellow? I had to smile at the ‘talent’ reference, given the Japanese image of a ‘tarento’: young, shallow, fame-seeking, disposable, often (but not exclusively) female media fodder. A Yorkshire version sounds particularly scary. Hopefully I don’t fit those categories. I certainly don’t fit the first one.

This is my profile in the current issue of Australian Gourmet Traveller. You can find my article on page 190 of the print magazine, should you care for a read or, if you prefer, you can check it out on the Web here. Sasha gets in on the act too, as the editors chose her pic, wolfing down Kyohei Ramen, to accompany the Web version. You can see that at her Foodelica blogsite here. The other photos there, from the magazine version, are also by me, FYI.


Pickles and Shellfish in Kyoto’s Nishiki Market 錦市場の漬け物、貝類

秋なす Eggplants aka Nasu were probably the first blue-purple things I ever ate. They are best in the autumn in Japan. A famed Japanese adage says you should never give the best ones to your wife in case she becomes too accustomed to the finer things in life. Personally I would be more than happy to give Sasha the best eggplants.

帆立 Scallops or Hotategai, a favourite of mine. Ate them once up in Aomori Prefecture in a very rough and rustic bowl of Ramen. Looked ropey, tasted fantastic. The place was called Shirakaba Ramen, the Silver Birch noodle shop, if you ever find yourself hungry on the windswept Western coast of the Shimokita Hanto peninsula.

黄瓜のつけもの Pickled cucumbers. With a little togarashi pepper to add some bite to the crunch.

カキ Oysters, first eaten in Japan aboard boats on the river that runs through Hiroshima, so they say. Hiroshima is still famed for them, as is Kumihama in Northern Kyoto prefecture. Best in winter. An old friend of mine, Yoshito, runs a Sake brewery in Kumihama, and I remember a great outdoor party he threw many years ago when he ordered a huge consignment of fresh oysters from his fisherman friend, which he steamed in sake sakamushi-style in a giant cauldron.

たくあんずけ Pickled daikon radish, or Takuanzuke. This is home-pickled, and that colour is natural. Not many japanese people know it, but Takuan isnamed after a monk of the same name who lived in the Takagamine district of North-west Kyoto.

Sasha and I at Dell Orso This Afternoon


Nice day today. We wrote a letter to our sponsor child, Laxmi, in Kathmandu.

You Don’t See This Every Day: A Cat Eating Dried Natto 干納豆を食べるローラちゃん

Lola digs into sun-dried Natto from Ibaraki. She not only ate it, she ate a lot of it! That’s my girl…



Sasha and the Eiffel Tower. Not in Paris.


She didn’t eat it afterwards. That was Godzilla, I think.

Yumiko Utsuの作品







My titles, not hers, btw. i like her stuff. You?


Bought these but not quite sure what to do with them. Last time I used ‘ara’ to make fish-head soup it tasted like watery glue.


Here’s a new bilingual map to Dell’ Orso, FYI



All very festive.


ソリハシセイタカシギ君 Another Picture from my Collection


An avocet. They were extinct in Britain, until, during World War 2, the government turned the area adjacent to the Wash in East Anglia, into swampland (to deter a German invasion). The Bosch tanks never showed up, but the avocets did.

If you like this kind of illustration, I strongly recommend you view the John James Audubon collection at the Musée de la Civilisation in Quebec:

ジョン・ジェームズ・オーデュボン(John James Audubon, 1785年4月26日 – 1851年1月27日)はアメリカ合衆国の画家・鳥類研究家。北アメリカの鳥類を自然の生息環境の中で極めて写実的に描いた博物画集の傑作『アメリカの鳥類』(Birds of America, 1838年)によって知られる。

Some of the Pictures lying around my House 最近見家でつけった絵


サー・エドワード・コーリー・バーン=ジョーンズ(Sir Edward Coley Burne-Jones, 1833年8月28日 – 1898年6月17日)は、イギリスの美術家。ラファエル前派と密接な関係を持つデザイナーで、ラファエル前派をイギリス画壇の主流に押し上げた。同時に、自身も数々の精巧で美しい芸術作品を作り上げた。

These are from a Christies’ auction catalogue, and are by Edward Burne-Jones, the pre-Raphaelite mate of Dante Gabriel Rossetti and William Morris. He was also Rudyard Kipling’s uncle.




The ‘woman carrying her pug’, and sitting under the bird-filled tree with him is the socialite Olive Maxse. Here is his rather more flattering portrait of her: