The History of Marine Algae in JapanThere are 21 different kinds of sea vegetables that are used in everyday cookery in Japan. In fact, six of them have been continuously used since the 700s BC. In modern times, the average Japanese person eats 1.4 kg of marine algae per year. Beyond traditional sushi, the Japanese are the main consumers of seaweed as food.
About NoriNori is one of the most important seaweeds in Japan. It is so important that the Taiho Code, Japan’s first written legal codex from the 8th Century, lists murasaki nori (“purple nori”) as an annual tribute tax payment option, along with seven other types of seaweed and 22 other marine products. Nori was a luxury item, which made it quite important during annual gift giving at the middle and end of every year. In fact, the demand of purple nori outstripped supply until more advanced cultivation methods were developed in the period following World War II. Now Japan happily celebrates “Nori Day” annually on February 6.Until the late 1970s, families prepared and consumed most nori in their households. People living in the coast had better chances to obtain fresh nori (or iwanori). They made nori salads and soups while also eating more processed forms of it such as sheets of nori, beer (tsumami), and other snacks.However, the most common use of processed nori are sushi and onigiri (rice balls). Temakizushi, which is sushi made by hand at home, is a popular food used mostly for small gatherings or parties. Onigiri are the Japanese culture’s answer to sandwiches — they are common at outdoor events such as picnics, field-day events, and lunches. Kombu is another popular seaweed. Various kinds of kombu find different uses in cooking. Kombu also plays an essential part in marriage ceremonies and New Year celebrations, as well as being a popular gift. After all these years, kombu has many avatars as well:
- Green kombu is boiled with meat, fish, and soups, and is also used as a vegetable or with boiled rice.
- Powdered kombu is employed in sauces and soups or is added to rice in the same way as curry is. These two forms, together with tea kombu, are also used for making a tea-like liquid.
- As if that was not enough, there is also a series of condiment products made of kombu.