Hikiwari Natto & Kotsubu Natto: Types of Natto Beans

“Natto (納豆)” are fermented soybeans with a peculiar odor and slimy consistency which are famous as a superfood with various health benefits.

It is known that the Japanese delicacy can contribute to having a long life, however, have you ever heard that there are several varieties of Natto according to the size?

The Size of Soybeans The 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 Soybeans Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆)

According to the official website of the leading Japanese Natto producer “Takano Foods (タカノフーズ)”, Natto is classified into 6 types based on the size as shown above.

In terms of popularity, in Japan, small-sized Natto beans, such as Kotsubu Natto, are much more popular than the middle and large-size ones Otsubu Natto and Chutsubu Natto.

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

Hikiwari Natto and Kotsubu Natto

As I mentioned “Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆)” and “Kotsubu Natto (小粒納豆)” just now, let’s actually compare the Hikiwari Natto and Kotsubu Natto I have now.

These are from different Japanese Natto makers, but the containers are uniform in size, color, and shape.

In addition, these polystyrene Natto containers both come with sachets of Karashi yellow mustard and soy-sauce-based dashi-packed sauce.

Actually, not only them, but most Natto products available at grocery stores in Japan also contain such sachets of Karashi and dashi-rich soy sauce.

Hikiwari Natto (ひきわり納豆)

Hikiwari Natto and Kotsubu Natto

As you can see from the contents. in general, Hikiwari Natto (on the left) has a lighter brown hue than Kotsubu Natto (on the right) because it takes less time to get the crushed soybeans fermented.

Hikiwari Natto

What is more, compared to “Tsubu Natto (粒納豆: whole bean Natto)” including Kotsubu Natto, Hikiwari Natto is easy to digest and rich in Vitamin K that helps absorb calcium efficiently.

Kotsubu Natto (小粒納豆)

Kotsubu Natto

In contrast, as with other Tsubu Natto, such as O-Tsubu Natto and Chu-Tsubu Natto, Kotsubu Natto usually has a dark brown color.

Generally, the whole bean varieties, Tsubu Natto has a deep taste and strong smell relating to the fermentation period, compared to the crushed variety Hikiwari Natto, though there is no clear difference in stickiness and sliminess between the 2 types.

(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.

2 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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