Chiyo Shibata and her Japanese cheese

An interesting piece from Atlas Obscura about Chiyo Shibata, a Japanese cheesemaker and her dream of making the dairy product more of a thing in her native country:

Shibata fell in love with cheese as a young girl when her father, a mechanic with Air France, took the family to Paris for summer vacations. However, it was during her final year of high school that she found her destiny.

“I happened to read a newspaper article that said we would soon face a food, climate, and energy crisis,” she recalls. The article listed fermented foods that could be preserved to prevent waste, “and of those, cheese had the highest nutritional value.”

Cheese is not a traditional part of the Japanese diet, although cows and dairy were noted now and again in ancient records. According to Eric C. Rath, a professor of Japanese history at the University of Kansas, Japan’s government encouraged cows for agriculture as far back as the 8th century, but interest faded because of the difficulty of grazing cattle on Japan’s rocky topography.

Ancient texts, though, also describe three things that may be similar to cheese: soraku, and daigo. “The problem is that, except for so, we don’t know how these were made. Raku may have been a yogurt drink, and daigo is supposed to be the epitome of dairy products. Buddhist monks compared its taste to enlightenment.” says Rath. “Something so good that it could totally change our understanding of the world.”

Her cheesery, Fromage Sen, is 1.5 hours from Tokyo Station by train and car in the Chiba Prefecture.

More on cheese: Moose cheese, pule cheese: the world’s most expensive cheese made from donkey milk, and Mountain Dew cheesecake.

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