Hikiwari Natto & Kotsubu Natto: Types of Natto Beans

Natto (納豆) is a fermented soybean known as a superfood despite its characteristic smell and slimy/sticky consistency.

As you know, the delicacy of Japanese origin brings various health benefits and can contribute to a long life.

But have you ever heard that the food comes in several types based on the size of the beans?

Size of Soybeans Name of Natto
Large O-Tsubu Natto (大粒納豆)
Middle Chu-Tsubu Natto (中粒納豆)
Small Ko-Tsubu Natto (小粒納豆)
Very Small Gokusho Natto (極小納豆)
Extremely Small Cho-Gokusho Natto (超極小納豆)
Crushed Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆)

According to the website of the leading natto producer Takano Foods (タカノフーズ), natto is classified into six types based on the size, as listed in the table.

In terms of popularity, small-size natto, such as Kotsubu Natto, sells much better in Japan than the middle and large-size Chutsubu Natto and Otsubu Natto.

Meanwhile, the crushed, fermented soybean called Hikiwari Natto accounts for about 7 to 8 percent of the market share.

Hikiwari Natto vs. Kotsubu Natto (Tsubu Natto)

Hikiwari Natto vs Kotsubu Natto (Tsubu Natto)

As I have a Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆) and a Kotsubu Natto (小粒納豆) on hand, this time, let’s take a close look at and compare these natto beans.

The products are from different natto makers, but as you can see, the polystyrene containers are uniform in size, color, and shape.

Hikiwari Natto Kotsubu Natto Contents

In addition, these natto containers contain sachets of Karashi yellow mustard and soy sauce-flavored dashi-packed Tare sauce.

Not only them, but most natto products sold at grocery stores in Japan enclose such sachets of Karashi and Tare.

Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆)

Hikiwari Natto and Kotsubu Natto with Tare and Karashi

Hikiwari Natto (on the left) has a light brown hue compared to Tsubu Natto (粒納豆: Whole Bean Natto), including Kotsubu Natto (on the right) because it takes less time to ferment.

Hikiwari Natto

Besides, Hikiwari Natto is easier to digest and richer in Vitamin K, which helps absorb calcium efficiently.

Kotsubu Natto (小粒納豆)

Kotsubu Natto

In contrast, as with other Tsubu Natto (such as Otsubu Natto and Chutsubu Natto), Kotsubu Natto has a dark brown color compared to Hikiwari Natto.

According to the fermentation period, the former whole bean varieties take on a deep taste and an intense smell compared to the latter crushed type.

Nonetheless, there is no significant difference in stickiness and sliminess.

(Reference Page: Wikipedia 納豆 )


Hi, I'm Tomo, a Japanese blogger living in Niigata Prefecture, Japan. For the purpose of enriching your life, I would like to introduce things about Japan on this blog, especially unique Japanese products, cooking recipes, cultures, and facts and trivia.

4 Responses

  1. Jen Whitfield says:

    Thank you Tomo, this is exactly the information I was looking for about Hikiwari Netto. I was gifted many kinds of frozen Natto by a friend, who I told I liked to eat Natto when I visited Japan. I used it with two kinds of cooked rice and put it on a salad because it is summer.

    • Tomo says:

      Hi Jen,
      Thank you for commenting and you’re welcome.
      Many people say they can’t eat natto because of its slimy consistency and unpleasant smell, but it actually has an acquired taste and can be used in various ways as you did.

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