A variety of fermentation products, such as foods containing probiotic bacteria, black rice vinegar (kurosu), soy sauce (shoyu), soybean-barley paste (miso), natto and tempeh, are sold in food stores in Japan. These fermented food products are produced by traditional methods that exploit mixed cultures of various non-toxic microorganisms. These microorganisms include lactic acid bacteria, acetic acid bacteria, sake yeast, koji molds and natto bacteria. Many traditional fermented foods have been studied and their effects on metabolism and/or immune system have been demonstrated in animal and/or human cells. This review summarizes the scientific basis for the effects of these traditional food products, which are currently produced commercially in Japan.