Explore the world of seaweed
Do you love to eat seasonal food and care about your health?
If your answer is yes, let me ask you another question: Have you ever tried Mozuku seaweed? If not, you are missing out on an Okinawan specialty.
Although spring in Okinawa may not be as dramatic a change from winter as it is on the mainland, enjoying seasonal produce is no less big than it is in other parts of Japan.
You can enjoy the crisp, juicy texture of spring cabbage salad or the perfect combination of fresh clams and white wine sauce with vongole bianco pasta in Okinawa, just as people do in Tokyo or Osaka. However, if you live in Okinawa and claim to be a health enthusiast, spring means it is time again for fresh Mozuku seaweed.
“Mozuku seaweed is rich in Fucoidan, a nutrition that is said to have anti-cancer benefits, help intestinal regulations and enhance your body functions,” Kenei Tamaki of the Katsuren Fisheries Association said during recent preparations for the April 17 Mozuku Day Festival.
The Katsuren Fisheries Association, which is located in the neighborhood around White Beach, is Okinawa’s largest producer of Mozuku, commonly recognized in Japan as a very healthy food. If you google the word “Mozuku” or “Fucoidan,” you will find many articles that back Tamaki’s words.
Still, what he said provided a fresh look at how good the seaweed is.
“Fucoidan will not be lost even if you cut Mozuku into small pieces or blend it with other food,” he said. “The seaweed itself doesn’t have any taste or smell. So all kinds of recipes are possible, and there are sweets and supplements that use the seaweed as an ingredient.”
According to Tamaki, Mozuku will help you cut oil, fat, and calories.
“If you put it in tempura, it will reduce the amount of oil by 30 pecent,” he explained. “With dumplings, calories will be cut by 50 percent, and we developed a soy sauce mixed with the seaweed that reduces salt by 50 percent.
“In short, it is a food that will reduce something if blended with some other food,” added Tamaki.
And ladies, even if you’re not a fan of seaweed, you should know that this delicacy from the sea is used in cosmetics for skin-lightening and anti-aging, according to the Katsuren Fisheries Association.
Tamaki proudly pointed out that Okinawa produces 90 percent of Mozuku grown in Japan, half of that is produced in Katsuren. In fact, the seaweed is widely known as Okinawa’s signature product thanks to media coverage and television shows.
“We used to harvest naturally-grown Mozuku,” Tamaki said, explaining that when handpicking seaweed you need to get rid of pebbles and sands with your hands. “But, farming started to boost productivity because of the use of vacuum machine-like pickers and nets for seedbeds.”
The number of people who farm the seaweed has increased significantly after it was first featured on a popular television show sometime around 2000, according to Tamaki, who said more than 200 people help grow and harvest the crop.
Becoming famous on TV obviously means a lot for business. But Tamaki stressed that the quality of the product has not changed since the time when it was grown naturally.
“What it takes to farm Mozuku seaweed is clean water that is less than 10 meters deep, which is ideal for photonic synthesis,” he said, explain that there are many spots like this in the Katsuren area.
“Although we call it farming, there is not much of a difference between farming and naturally growing Mozuku,” Tamaki said. “What we do is to plant Mozuku seed on nets and leave them in the water.”
So, it is literally a gift from Mother Nature.
On Sunday, April 17, the Mozuku Day Festival comes back for its 14th installment in Okinawa. Fishery associations across the island celebrate, but the festivities hosted by the Katsuren Fisheries Association are definitely the big draw.
Several thousand people come to this event each year to enjoy boat rides around farming sites, a Mozuku speed- eating contest, Grab-all-Mozuku-you-can contest, performance by local dancers and music by a Japan Self-Defense Force Band. And, yes, there will be plenty of vendors selling tasty treats that incorporate the famous seaweed.
Mozuku isn’t difficult to get in Japan. You can buy a pack of it at many stores for reasonable price. There are even people in the U.S. who import several thousand packs of Mozuku a year to California to sell them at supermarkets. But, this event should be a good opportunity for both those who love Mozuku and those who have yet to try the seaweed to enjoy the freshest and best of this super healthy food Okinawa has to offer.
So come to Heshikiya Fisheries Port on April 17, and discover MOZUKU!
Mozuku Day Festival
Location: Heshikiya Fishing Port
Date: April 17 (Sunday)
Time: 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Directions to Heshikiya Fisheries Port (From Kadena AB Gate 3)
- Turn right out of Gate 3
- Turn left onto Route 85
- Turn left onto Route 33
- Turn right onto Route 16
- Turn right onto Route 8
- Pass by White Beach Gate, stay on Route 8 going on a downward slope
- You will find Heshikiya Fisheries Port on your right
*Mozuku Day Festivals will be held at the following location as well.
Location: Tembus Naha Pocket Park on Kokusai Street
Address: 3-2-10 Makishi Naha city 900-0013
Time: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Attractions: Food sampling, sale of Mozuku at a discounted prices and recipe book giveaway