Let’s talk about nori, which I once heard described as “that black stuff wrapped around sushi.” You’ve eaten it. You probably know it’s seaweed. But do you have any idea where it comes from? Whether it’s wild or grown? Or how the heck it comes out looking like paper?
I addressed exactly those questions in my Feb. 19 column in The Japan Times. I explained that nori is a sea plant that has been cultivated in Japan for several hundred years. I also described trying my hand at making a sheet of nori myself, and promised to provide pictures. Let’s start with the plant:
After processing, nori comes out looking like this. But how?
The following pictures are from a noritsuke taiken 海苔つけ体験 (make-your-own-nori workshop) at the Omori Nori Museum. The first step is to chop the raw seaweed. When these men were children, many nori-making households around Tokyo Bay used a multi-blade device like this one, which hung from a spring on the ceiling over a big chopping block.
The chopped seaweed gets mixed with water into a slurry, which is in the big yellow bucket below. You set a squarish wooden frame atop a woven mat. Then you scoop up a measure of the slurry in a rectangular wooden box. While holding the frame lightly in place atop the mat, you slosh the slurry over the mat inside the frame, working quickly so it spreads evenly. Not as easy as it looks.
You lift off the frame and prop the mat up to help the water drain off. I took this shot just moments after she poured the slurry.
The Omori Nori Museum 大森海苔のふるさと館 runs nori-making workshops January to April. There are also opportunities to try nori-making in Futtsu , in Chiba Prefecture and in Kawasaki in Kanagawa Prefecture. I’m sure there are opportunities elsewhere too. To search in your area, the term you need to know is noritsuke taiken 海苔つけ体験。