As the hard work continues, the colour of the leaves grows darker and the pile sinks.


The two cylindrical straw objects are known as 'bozu' ('my boy' in Japanese). They are put at the bottom center of the pile. The temperature there can reach as high as 60 degrees centigrade, and the air in the bozu can absorb some of this heat and release it at night when the temperature drops.


As autumn arrives and the temperature gets lower, Mr. Nii uses straw mats called futon (Japanese blankets) to cover the moldy leaves. Anywhere from one to twelve layers is used, because if the leaves 'catch cold' fermentation will stop.


Balancing the temperature of the leaves is very difficult; if there are too many or too few futon in place, the fermantation process will be interrupted. Mr. Nii takes care of the leaves as though they were his children!



It is January before the sukumo is ready ...
Almost one full year's work has ended with the new sukumo now stored in straw bags.

The very final step is to tie the bags with rope.

When I observed the beginning of the 'aidate' process at Kosoen, I watched an apprentice empty one of these straw bags of sukumo into the vat. I was curious about the bag and asked Mr. Murata "What do you do with these used bags?" He immediately replied "I am raising vegetables in my small farm and this will become good fertilizer!" Mr. Murata still raises ai among his vegetables. A long time ago his family did all the steps of the process by themselves: raising ai, making hardwood ash ... It seems that for the Muratas, ai is part of their life ...