top of page

Seaweeds / 海藻(かいそう) (Longevity series Part 5)


I’m sure most readers are familiar with Maki (sushi rolls) which is a staple menu item at a sushi restaurant or bento box. Maki is sushi rice with some ingredients rolled up by Nori (brown seaweed in sheet form) that is one of the popular seaweeds Japanese consume. Have you ever had digestive trouble upon eating Nori? If so, that is because people other than certain Asian descent don’t have the digestive enzyme to dissolve minerals contained in seaweed. Research shows that Japanese do have the intestinal bacteria to digest seaweed, perhaps, since we are exposed to this food group since childhood. There are over 1,500 different kinds of seaweed surrounding the islands of Japan, and we consume about 100 types of them. They are divided into three main groups by their color: brown seaweeds (Konbu, Hijiki and Wakame), red seaweeds (not as common as the other two), and green seaweeds (Aosa). We wrap rice with it, create pickles, use it in miso soup, and make a soup broth (read the article “Umami”). Without understanding seaweeds, you cannot begin talking about Japanese cooking. That is how essential it is for the Japanese food culture.

There are several health benefits. It contains plenty of fiber, lowers cholesterol level, controls blood glucose, conditions intestinal functions, and activates your metabolism. A certain Konbu from the northern part of Japan called Gagome Konbu contains Fucoidan that is known to develop the immune system to fight certain types of cancer such as thyroid cancer. Seaweeds’ minerals also are used for non-digestive purposes such as beauty products or fertilizers.

Despite the many benefits seaweeds offer, younger generations are consuming less due to the westernization of their eating habits. It is unfortunate. In my opinion, the benefits are surprisingly not well understood in Japan. It might be a good idea to rethink and bring back traditional eating culture to develop healthier future generations.

This is the final article in the longevity series that examined why a healthy diet containing seaweed, soy and green tea along with a lifestyle including walking and furo results in Japanese people having the second longest longevity in the world. I would be very interested to hear your comments on these topics and about your own experiences.

eatable, seaweed,  Japanese culture and language
Seaweed: Konbu


ご飯(はん)できたわよ。 今日(きょう)はひじきを作(つく)ってみたの。 我(われ)ながら上手(じょうず)にできたと思(おも)うんだけど…

わー、ひじきわかめの味噌汁(みそしる)に海藻(かいそう)サラダか。 海藻だらけだね。

あら、文句(もんく)あるの? 海藻は体(からだ)にいいのよ。知(し)ってるでしょ?  あなた、最近(さいきん) 髪の毛(かみのけ)が薄(うす)くなって来(き)てるんだから、もっと海藻を食(た)べた方(ほう)がいいわよ。

大(おお)きなお世話(せわ)だよ。 でも、ほんとうに? 髪の毛、薄くなって来てる?



増えるかもしれないわよ。 さあ、どんどん食べてください。 ひじきも美味(ひじき)しいわよ。


巻き(Maki)n. a roll. 巻く(Maku) v. to roll

海苔(Nori)n. a general term for a dried edible seaweed; however, often used to refer a dried seaweed sheet.

ご飯 n. a meal. Literal meaning is “rice”; however, in spoken Japanese Gohan is used to refer a meal in general.

わよ p. end particle. As well as のよ, it generates feminine tone comparing to simple よending.

ひじき n. a type of brown seaweed. A popular companion for white rice.

てみた てfrom verb + みる try to do something. Here, “I tried to cook Hijiki.”

我ながら p. Even for me. This ながら usage is different from “while doing one thing…” A noun referring to people + ながら= even for somebody or despite being someone implying someone’s presumable inability. When using this expression for yourself, it creates a humble opinion of your ability.

上手に verb conjunctive form ofナ-adj. skillfully

に p.  used to list up nouns. Comparing to the use of と, it expresses speaker’s emotional state of mind.

だらけ p. plentiful of same thing. Here, “plentiful of seaweed related foods”

文句 n. complaint. 文句がある、ない。文句があるis a common expression comparable to an English expression “Do you have a problem with that?”

でしょ a conjugation of です。 By raising an intonation, it creates a tag question. Here, “you know it’s good for you, don’t you?”

髪の毛 n. hair on your head

薄く verb conjunctive form of 薄い thin

なって来ている てform verb + 来ているdescribes graduate progression. Here, “it’s getting thin.”

た方がいい たform verb. + 方がいい you’d better (verb)

大きなお世話 an expression comparable to an English expression: “Mind your business”. A literal meaning is a “big+care”. Discuss why 大きな is used instead of 大きい

ここら辺 around here. 辺refers to approximate location.

まずい  イ-adjective. Not good. This adjective can be used for taste or situation.

どんどん Adv. Used to urge more action. Here, “eat more and more”. Discuss other meanings of どんどん

bottom of page