Updated: December 03, 2018
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The Different Seaweeds in Japan!

There are so many different types of seaweed available in Japan. Here's how to eat it and their specific health benefits.

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Kombu seaweed (昆布)

Kombu comes from the Japanese word 昆布 and is a form of edible kelp. It is widely used in Japanese cooking and can be used in a variety of ways, such as in broths, pickled, eaten fresh, deep-fried, etc.

Kombu gives a nice "umami" taste to broths, its taste and versatility are widely appreciated across the world. What is more, it's suited for vegans as well!

Health benefits

Out of all the seaweeds, kombu is the one with the highest iodine content. Its benefits are mainly attributed to its positive effects on the thyroid gland. Glutamic acid is what gives kombu its much appreciated "umami", that is why it is so widely used to make broths.
It is also said to help to help digestion and reduce gas. It also contains calcium and iron, which is great for those with anemia looking for a vegan source of iron. This seaweed also helps purify the blood and it detoxifies and helps with weight loss. It is also a cancer-fighting food!

How to consume it

Kombu is most commonly used to make broths, such as shabu shabu for example.

To make kombucha, the kombu is dried, then it is often cut into small pieces or crushed into a powder. In it's most basic form, hot water is poured on the prepared kombu, a sprinkle of salt is added to the concoction and it is drunk as a tea. The white powder on the seaweed is what is released in the water and gives the tea its umami (some kind of deep flavour often found in Japanese cuisine). Kombucha in Japan is very different from what is imagined in the West.

Mozuku (もずく)

Mozuku is a brown type of seaweed that is the pride of Okinawa. 99% of the world's production is made in the Southern archipelago of Japan, known for being the place with the longest human life expectancy.

Health benefits

Mozuku contains very high levels of fucoidan, a sulfated polysaccharide that is present mainly in brown seaweed. This molecule was found to be extremely good at suppressing tumors in laboratory testing. Although it is found in other brown edible seaweed such as the better-known wakame, mozuku contains many times as much of it as other seaweeds. In fact, about one-fourth of its weight is made of fucoidan! An increasing number of scientific research is indicating that this could be an element of why Okinawan, and Japanese people in general, have the highest life expectancy on the planet. Fucoidan aside, mozuku also contains lots of minerals and vitamins.

How to consume it

Mozuku is simply eaten with vinegar and served as an appetizer or an accompaniment to rice. It can also be served in miso soup to add an extra punch and texture.

Wakame (わかめ)

Wakame is a type of brown edible seaweed that has been farmed and consumed in Japan for over 1,000 years (it dates back to the Nara Era of Japan). It's harvested from the sea, then often dried to be sold as a long preserving ingredient.

Health benefits


Mekabu (めかぶ)

Many people all over the world know about the wakame seaweed, a common ingredient in Japanese cuisine used for instance for making wakame soup. Much fewer people know, however, about wakame's close relative, the "mekabu" seaweed. The names are different but mekabu actually comes from the same plant as wakame. The difference is that wakame is the leafy part of the seaweed, whereas mekabu is the part just above the root system. Both parts of the plant are commonly used in Japanese cuisine, but the way to eat it is quite different.

Health Benefits

Mekabu is a good source of vitamin A, C, E, and especially K. Vitamin K is an essential molecule that assists the body in its blood clotting mechanism. It's also believed to have good benefits for maintaining healthy bones. It's also an excellent source of folates, a type of B vitamin used in cell division, and iodine, which is used by the body to produce thyroid hormones. Mekabu also has some dietary fibers which promote digestion, and it is overall low in calories. On top of that, it has lots of antioxidants! By eating mekabu, you get plenty of vitamins and minerals for a low-calorie intake. The dietary fibers that stimulate digestion are great for burning fat as well!

How to consume it

It is cut in julienne and served with soy sauce or ponzu sauce and served over rice.
Lili Wanderlust
I love travelling and discovering new cuisines. Japan has a panoply of local dishes to try. I also love yoga, coffee, reading, and cycling.

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