Seaweeds (C, kaisō) have been an important part of the Japanese diet for many centuries. Today, various types of seaweed are used extensively as soup stock, seasonings and other forms in daily Japanese cooking. The following are some the seaweed types most commonly encountered by tourists:


Kombu is a large type of seaweed that is very commonly used as a soup stock. Pieces of kombu are also enjoyed in some nabe (hot pot) dishes.


Wakame is often used in soups such as the miso soup or in salads. Wakame is usually sold in dried form, and is soaked in water before usage. The picture on the left shows wakame in dried and soaked form.


Hijiki is a dark brown, short seaweed that is used in simmered dishes or salads. The most common way to encounter the seaweed is in hijiki no nimono, in which hijiki and thin strips of carrots and aburaage (deep fried tofu) are simmered in soy sauce, mirin and dashi soup stock. The picture on the left shows hijiki in its dried and soaked forms.


Mozuku is a brown seaweed from Okinawa that is made up of very thin leaf strands and has a slightly slimy texture. Mozuku is most commonly served as a small side dish in vinegar and is also popular outside of Okinawa.


Umibudo (lit. "sea grapes") is a seaweed that indeed resembles grapes on a miniature scale. Each little umibudo ball has a soft skin that releases a salty liquid when bitten. Umibudo is usually served with little preparation, with only a bit of vinegar or soy sauce. This Okinawa specialty is not easily found outside of Okinawa.