Photography by Soshiro Nakakura
Text contribution by Yusuke Kitamori
Japan teems with diverse culinary treasures from its fertile lands and abundant seas. The foods we highlight here are all raised, handled, or made with painstaking artisanal care. Some have risen to the status of local brands, the pride of their prefecture or region. Others represent the pinnacles of traditional specialties, legacies created by generations of Japanese. All offer flavor worthy of discovery.
Nori from the Ariake Sea―Saga
Each region of Japan has its own long-cherished foods packed with unique flavors and rich in nutrition. Producing these local specialties are people who are nothing short of craftsmen, using passion, ingenuity, and steady effort. One example is nori seaweed farmer Keiji Shimauchi.
Working in the Ariake Sea south of Saga prefecture in Kyushu, Shimauchi carries on the traditional fixed-pole cultivation technique that he learned from his father. It involves attaching nets to poles fixed into the ocean floor and planting nori seedlings on the nets. The key is the big tidal fluctuation in the Ariake Sea, resulting in the appearance of extensive mud flats twice a day. Seedlings feed on the nutrients in seawater when the tide is in and absorb the sun’s energy when the tide is out. The method takes time but helps seedlings develop high concentrations of amino acids that create umami savoriness.
Ever a perfectionist, Shimauchi cultivates his own seedlings, saying, “I aim to reproduce the nori my father grew.” He will continue the traditional methods nurtured by the natural blessings of the Ariake Sea.
Keiji Shimauchi’s nori
Find out more in the All-Star Flavor feature, KIJE 2020 Autumn / Winter issue.