Shikabe, in Hokkaido, is a fishing town facing the pacific ocean,
and it is only somewhere like this that can provide a unique "konbu drying experience".
So what is this konbu that brings out the key "umami (deliciousness)" of Japanese cuisine?
It's a type of Japanese cuisine that has been gaining attention in recent years.
The two key words relating to Japanese cuisine can be said to be "umami" and "dashi", and it is "konbu",
a type of seaweed, that accomplishes both of these.
"Konbu" is a type of seaweed that grows in shallow seawater up to a depth of 7 meters,
and the best time for harvesting it, in Hokkaido, is between July and September each year.
During this period, on sunny days in Shikabe, you can see konbu stretched out to dry in the sun across the whole shore.
Shikabe's speciality "konbu" is harvested by fishermen
This "konbu drying experience" allows you to experience drying konbu on the shore.
Konbu fishing involves going off shore in small boats made for 2–3 people, and harvesting konbu from the sea using brushwood torque fishing poles
(known as makka), which are approximately 2m–10m in length.
When the boat is full and returns to the beach, the whole family come out to dry each individual konbu on the shore.
The quality of "dried konbu" used in Japanese cuisine depends on whether the sun drying process goes well or not.
For that reason, konbu fishing takes place early in the morning before the sun rises,
and there is no fishing on rainy and cloudy days as the konbu cannot be sufficiently dried and will rot.
Furthermore, konbu fishermen have such little time during the fishing period that they lodge in "konbu huts" built near the shore.
Dry konbu while talking with a konbu fishing family
The konbu drying experience starts at 4:00 p.m. and takes 90 minutes.
Meet at "Shikabekanketsusen Park Rest Area".
At last, the experience begins!
Unfortunately, the amount of konbu dried by sun drying is dependent on the weather,
so the experience takes place in the drying hut where a portion of the drying is done.
As for the work itself, konbu is carried on a small truck to the hut for drying.
There you can join in together with the mothers and children of the local konbu fishermen, and help out with the drying work.
Incidentally, once one surface of the konbu is sufficiently dried, it is flipped over, but this isn't included in the experience.
It's an experience where you can talk about a variety of things with the families of local konbu fishermen,
so you will undoubtedly hear interesting tales that only local people would know, such as "konbu fishing families eat the stems of konbu as snacks" etc.
This is "tarako konbu maki (cod roe wrapped in konbu)", a local cuisine
When the experience is over, you will receive a bag of dried konbu to take home as a souvenir.
This experience is for two persons or more