Category Archives: Bokashi in the world

Can bacteria juice save the world?

konohana family

Not my headline but I wish it was.

A truly excellent blog by Holly Jean Buck from October 2008 — well worth reading if you’re in the least interested in Bokashi, in EM, in the ecological future of our planet. Read it here on “The Walrus”, which bills itself as Canada’s best magazine.

Holly Jean Buck writes that she first tried bacteria juice during an afternoon tea break at Konohana Family, an organic community in Japan near the base of Mt. Fuji. A self-supporting cooperative, they base everything they do on Effective Microorganisms (EM), the fermentation concept developed at a university in Okinawa during the 1970s by agriculture professor Teruo Higa.

As she was shown around the chicken coops, the goat barn, the veggie patch (they have 13 hectares of land), and ate a sumptuous lunch on the farm, Holly became increasingly convinced. This must surely be the way to go, but why haven’t we heard about it before?

Good question. Maybe the right answer is that we also need to embrace things that are working well — extremely well, in fact — for people that are working in closer harmony with nature than we are ourselves. Where nature thrives there’s surely something to learn from the process?

PS Read more about the Konohana ecocommunity here. I have to say I got quite fascinated — I spent some months living in Japan when I was younger and love a lot about the country, the people, the culture but found the commercial rat-race a bit much to be honest. To spend time working on an ecofarm like this would be a dream — all the best of Japan without the stuff that makes it impossible!

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.