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Algae in Japan: history of their cultivation, food culture and future prospects

Culturally we identify the growing and consumption of algae with the Orient, but these countries must also rethink their methods with an eye on the future.

Algae have been a major source of food in Japan since ancient times. They appear in many ukiyoe paintings from the Edo period, and have given rise to a unique food culture and history. Even nowadays, several types of algae, especially the kombu, wakame and nori, are a daily feature of meals, and are essential ingredients for the Japanese.

Moreover, algae on the Japanese coastline, even the cultivated variety, are in danger of being devoured by fish or sea urchins, mainly due to global warming, and now – in a traditional producer country such as Japan – there is a certain amount of dependence on imports. In a bid to promote future algae growing in the outer waters, Japan has elected to learn from Western examples, while simultaneously devising ways to maintain the country’s unique crops.