Bokashi on base in Okinawa


Sometimes there’s an unexpected twist in the tail.

I clicked on this link expecting to find a classic Bokashi tale — how Bokashi was discovered inadvertently by Professor Teruo Higa in Okinawa in the early 1980s and has since spread to virtually every corner of the globe. Still on a smallish scale, but the message is spreading neighbour-to-neighbour as we speak.

So here we have a tale of a truly happy woman/wife/mother living on what I assume is the US base on Okinawa — and she just received a Bokashi bucket for a present. It’s really cool to read — they can’t have traditional compost bins at base homes apparently for fear of rats and stuff, and at the same time the soil is hopeless and she wants to grow tomatoes. So why not do as the locals do? A Bokashi bin in the kitchen and a great veggie patch outside the back door.

Bokashi is based on Effective Microorganisms, a special brew of naturally-occuring microorganisms that do many different things. Mainly because these microbes have been around a fair bit longer than us (say, 4 billion years), they are extremely versatile and multifunctional. EM is used in many applications ranging from agriculture to environmental restoration to healthcare and animal food — it’s a fascinating area and something we’re sure to hear much more about as the years go by.  Hopefully we’ll look back on this time as the years when biology started to be used instead of chemistry — more nature, less poison.

Anyhow, it all started on Okinawa, and much of the research supporting and developing the EM movement has taken place there over the last 30 years. Teruo Higa has written his story enthusiastically and well in his book “An Earth Saving Revolution” (ISBN 4-7631-9214-0), it’s a bit tricky to get hold of but google it in your country and you’ll probably find you can get hold of it through your local EM organisation.

A Los Angeles apartment-dweller’s adventures with Bokashi composting

I know there’s a lot of people who live in apartments and would love to get into Bokashi composting but don’t know quite how to get started or if it would be the right thing for them. Here’s a woman in LA who does a great blog on Bokashi, she explains all the ins and outs and the thing is, she actually lives in an apartment and gets it to work beautifully. The key is to find yourself a gardener friend. Or a spare bit of land nearby. And the more you find out about Bokashi and the great little microbes that make it all happen the more fascinated you become.

She  describes her blog as “A Los Angeles apartment-dweller’s adventures with Bokashi composting: From kitchen to compost to garden – and back again”

You can check it out here: (There are a lot of good posts under Bokashi basics.)

A kindred soul in the Bokashi world

You get into a lot of interesting conversations when you bring up the subject of Bokashi. I have to admit I often feel like a bit of a nerd, but the subject of taking care of our soil and our waste and our gardens is relevant as hell so often I just dive on in anyway. Sometimes you end up in a long and philosophical discussion on the environment, other times you end up with a very, very blank look to deal with.

There’s a woman in Austin, Texas who is experimenting in every way you can think of with Bokashi, worms, compost and apartment gardening — all with a great spirit of curiosity.

But on the subject of blank looks she describes it perfectly — have a read of it here, it’s quite funny!:

“Go on,” my friend said, “ask her.” My friend’s friend rolled his eyes but obediently asked me what I’m doing with all my buckets.

“…Bokashi? What’s that?”

“Two-stage composting,” I answered.

He nodded, said that he didn’t garden, and the conversation moved on.


The whole idea of running a soil factory at home is interesting.

You can reach a committed gardener easily — fellow composters are quick to recognise a kindred spirit. But often they think they’ve got it sorted, nothing to be gained by trying something new. “Suburban gardeners” often have another response, they love their gardens to bits, but that whole business of soil is a bit of a mystery. Too hard, too messy, too complicated — can’t you just buy something in a bag? So some buy into the idea of Bokashi — a back garden soil factory — while many don’t dare.

Then there are many dedicated green people you come across, they understand immediately we can’t carry on the way we’re going. Some jump on the idea immediately of getting a practical solution to an everyday problem, something they can do themselves. Easily. Others back off a bit, sometimes the theory is more comfortable than the practice.

Then you have the people who just don’t get it. Those who are worried about what the neighbours might think, are afraid it might smell, that they don’t know anyone else doing it, that actually it should be someone elses problem to take care of their rubbish. My only consolation is that times will change — ARE CHANGING! — and the world is slowly but surely moving forward in this any so many other areas. It wasn’t that long ago we wouldn’t have dreamed of sorting our plastic for recycling, now its everyday life (at least here in Sweden).

So how do we converts convince the unconvinced? I don’t know. But it’s worth keeping on trying!