Waiting for Us

Arriving back home after our Kauai vacation was a box of wakame from a dear friend in Kobuchihama (Tohoku). We are looking forward not only to eat the wakame but also to share this delicatesse with our friends in Tokyo.

Mekabu and Wakame – Day 2

On Sunday we went directly to the harbor in Kobuchihama where we helped out with mekabu. This time it was for one company only and we were about 10 people. In the end we managed to do 500+ kg mekabu. It was fun work though I doubt I would stay sane doing this day in and day out for more than a week.

Anyway, before this trip I had eaten wakame without a thought that someone have to harvest it and prepare it before it ends up in the shops and eventually on my plate or in my soup. Now I could see almost all steps of making that happen, except the harvesting in the ocean and what happens after the wakame is picked up for transportation.

First the raw wakame is cooked quickly, just a few minutes. Then it is put into a giant top loaded laundry-like machine where it soaks in super-salted water for about 50 minutes.

Next the soft “hair” part of the wakame is separated by hand from its stalk. This was the part that was not really my strong side, but Ishihara-san and Chie was doing good 🙂

Once the wakame was separated from its stalk it is put under heavy pressure for some time. Then it is put into a tumbler before it is packed into boxes. Each box contain 15 kg of wakame and is sold for about 20000 JPY a box.

The final step is for someone to buy the boxes and come and pick them up.

Even though we were working we also had time to go out with one of the fishermen on his boat. We picked up some cages that they had put out the day before to catch sea shells and crab. We also visited where he was growing oysters but since everything was destroyed in the tsunami they were still too small to eat – may need 2 more years before they are ready to harvest.

At about 4 pm we were in our car driving back to Tokyo. It’s a 6-7 hours drive depending on how fast you drive and how long you rest. Luckily Chie and I shared to burden as all the work had made me tired… In a good way 🙂

Mekabu and Wakame – Day 1

This weekend we went to Kobuchihama and Fukukiura outside of Ishinomaki in the Tohoku area. We went together with Ishihara-san to deliver some donations and to help out making mekabu and wakame. Both are seaweeds or, rather, mekabu is the part of the wakame seaweed just above the root system.

We left Tokyo around 1 am on the night between Friday and Saturday. Chie and I shared the driving while Ishihara-san was occupying the backseat of the car. We arrived in Fukukiura early in the morning on Saturday and stopped at the temporary homes to meet our contacts there and to deliver some goods.

Once that was done we walked to the harbor where we helped out with separating the mekabu from the non-usable stalk of the wakame root system. You can see one of the locals doing this in the below video. Then you can imaging Ishihara-san, Chie and me along with 20 or so other volunteers doing the same… But in slow-motion 🙂

After our work was done someone came and bought the 1 ton mekabu that all of us have prepared. Loaded it on a big truck and drove off into the sunset… Well, it was still midday but it sounded so nice 🙂

We also had some time to have a look at where they were cooking konago that they had caught during the morning. Konago is a small fish, just a couple of cm or 3, and is cooked whole. Quite tasty in salads, soups and various other kinds of Japanese dishes.

In the afternoon we went to Kobuchihama and met Shinobu-san. We joined her families company where we helped preparing wakame. Basically separating the soft parts from the stalk. It was much more difficult work and I think I manage to make more damage than help here 🙂

In the evening we visited Kasuo-san’s home and he and his wife invited us for dinner. It was a great dinner and we could try mekabu and wakame in various dishes along with some tempura and other dishes. We had actually planned to have dinner in Sendai close to our hotel but this was much better.