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Hokkaido accounts for some 90% of Japan's konbu kelp catch

Some 90% of the konbu caught in the waters off Japan is from Hokkaido. There are various varieties of konbu kelp, such as naga-konbu, ma-konbu, and hosome-konbu, as well as those with regional brand names such as Rishiri-konbu, Rausu-konbu (oni-konbu), and Mitsuishi-konbu.

Capitalizing on its rich flavor, konbu kelp is used in soup broths, konbu-maki, oden and other simmered dishes, and tororo-konbu, which is minced kelp.

In recent years, the health and beauty effects of the calcium, iodine, and fiber contained in konbu kelp have been reaffirmed, increasing its popularity.

Map

■Konbu kelp is harvested from nearly every coastline in Hokkaido
Hakodate is a major producer of ma-konbu, considered a luxury ingredient. In the Oshima region including Hakodate, fishermen use a hallow cage with a net pattern to catch the local specialty known as gagome-konbu because of its sticky texture. Each region also harvests kelp with a local name, such as naga-konbu and atsuba-konbu in the Nemuro area and Hidaka, Rausu and Rishiri konbu in each of these respective areas.

Hosome-konbu has the longest harvest history of any other konbu kelp in Hokkaido. It is caught only in small quantities along the Sea of Japan coast.

 

■ Map / Main municipalities with konbu grounds
・Ma-konbu
Hakodate City, Shikabe Town, Fukushima Town, Shiriuchi Town
・Oni-konbu
Rausu Town
・Rishiri-konbu
Wakkanai City, Rishiri Town, Rishiri Fuji Town, Rebun Town
・Mitsuishi-konbu
Erimo Town, Samani Town, Urakawa Town, Shinhidaka Town
・Naga-konbu and Gaggara-konbu
Nemuro City, Hamanaka Town, Akkeshi Town, Kushiro Town, Kushiro City

Grown in ideal environments to suit the needs of markets nationwide

Hokkaido’s ocean temperatures range between 5 and 20 degrees Celsius, ideal for growing konbu kelp year round. Hokkaido-grown kelp also thrives in the sunlight at depths between 5 and 7 meters. In addition to excellent natural conditions, the coastline offers rich minerals because of its currents, sea ice, or mountain waters flowing from mountain to sea.

 

The use of konbu kelp differs based on the variety, which enables products made in Hokkaido to be shipped based on the needs of each region in Japan. Konbu kelp was also an important item of trade carried on kitamaebune ships long ago.

 

Konbu harvesting mainly involves wrapping it around a scythe-like tool. Harvested konbu kelp is dried in the sunlight in a depot managed by each fisherman.

Konbu kelp Family

  • Ma-konbu
    Ma-konbu is found in the Iburi region from the southern coast of the Oshima Peninsula. Known as a high end kelp, it is made into soup stock konbu, salted konbu and konbu simmered in soy sauce. Soft parts harvested during the start of spring are used in seaweed salad and konbu-maki dishes.
  • Oni-konbu
    Oni-konbu is mainly harvested in Rausu Town, so it is also known by the other name Rausu-konbu. Soup made from this konbu is thick and rich, and known for its unique scent and sweet taste. It is also considered a high end kelp along with ma-konbu. It is made into oboro-konbu, tororo-konbu, salted konbu, and konbu tea, among other items.
  • Rishiri-konbu
    Mainly harvested in Rishiri, Rebun and Wakkanai, Rishiri-konbu is known widely throughout Japan as a brand kelp. Broth from this konbu is transparent and has a light flavor, producing a refined taste, which makes it ideal for soups. In Kyoto it is used to season senmai-tsuke and boiled tofu.
  • Mitsuishi-konbu
    Taking after the name of Mitsuishi Town in the Hidaka region, this particular type of konbu is also called Hidaka-konbu. Its perfect thickness and softness easily conduct heat, making it best suited for simmered kelp, kelp simmered in soy sauce, and soup stock kelp.
  • Naga-konbu
    Found along the Pacific Coast of the Kushiro and Nemuro regions, naga-konbu is the longest of the world's kelp, as it grows between 4 and 12 meters in length. It is also uniquely thin at between 6cm and 18cm. Naga-konbu grows fast, or upwards of 13cm in a single day. Because it cooks easily, it is used in oden, konbu-maki, and kelp simmered in soy sauce.
  • Gaggara-konbu
    Gaggara-konbu is generally known by the name atsuba-konbu in Hokkaido. As the Kanji characters indicate (thick and leaf), this kelp is known for being solid and thick. It produces a slightly bitter taste in soup stocks, making it perfect for kelp simmered in soy sauce, salted kelp, oboro-konbu, and konbu-maki.

Seasons

Konbu is mainly harvested in the summer and generally the harvest stops during the winter. As for Mitsuishi-konbu, after it is harvested in the summer, fishermen gather by hand  the konbu that has been uprooted and is floating in the sea. Such harvesting takes place throughout the year.

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•Seasons

Processed Foods

Konbu kelp is made into an assortment of foods, including konbu-maki, kelp simmered in soy sauce, tororo-konbu, and oboro-konbu, based on its unique characteristics. Konbu tea is fondly known as a health drink for long life, and in recent years it has been used as a hidden flavor for simmered dishes, soups, and pasta as an alternative to other seasonings. Based on Japanese legend, konbu associated with other auspicious Kanji characters such as long life and good luck, so it is sold in products widely used in foods for auspicious occasions.
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