Kombu Seaweed

Kombu Seaweed

Japanese food is loved by people from all over the world. In 2013, Japanese food was registered in the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage, and its popularity is still growing. The secrets to Japanese food, “soup stock” and flavor, or “umami”, are becoming more known throughout the world, but without a certain ingredient called “kombu”, a type of kelp that dominates the Japanese foodscape, this would not have been possible.

“Kombu” has an extremely long history, dating back from the 145th century BC to the 6th century BC. This sea product was known to be eaten by the people throughout these times. “Kombu” was eaten because it was a convenient way to take in the nutrients people needed, such as proteins. From 794 to 1185, it was used in Buddhist practices and other religious settings, and was frequently used in meals at temples.

From the 13th century, trading ships carried kombu between Hokkaido and Honshu. In the 14th century, the method of drying the kombu in order to make it last longer was invented, so the routes multiplied; after being transported from Hokkaido to Fukui prefecture, the kombu would be sent to Koto and Osaka, where food from western Japan was enjoyed. In the beginning of the 17th century, a direct route was constructed for kombu transportation from Shimonoseki across the Seto Inland Sea to Osaka. Soon after the routes spread to Tokyo, Kyushu, Okinawa, and the Chugoku district. This sea route was then named “Kombu Road”, and different types of kombu-based dishes spread, helping to improve the Japanese economy.

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