Sea vegetables are believed to have been in existence prior to or about the same period as other living things. However, when did we begin eating them? We assume from the fact that Wakame and Arame are discovered with human bones, seashells, and fish bones in shell heaps of the prehistory era, sea vegetables have been eaten for over 2500 years. There are possibly three reasons why sea vegetables have pervaded for so long as essential dishes on our dining tables.
1. The long an complicated shorelines of Japan
Japan is an island surrounded by the sea. Its long and complicated shorelines are best suited for the reproduction of fish, seashells, and sea vegetables. A variety of sea vegetables are also grown along the coast of Japan because of its geography. Japan is vertically stretched from the north to the south, and it covers the sub arctic zone, the temperate zone, and subtropical zone. Add to that warm and cold current streams, and you see why many various sea vegetables have been available and eaten by the Japanese people for such a long time.
2. Buddhism and its diet
The spread of Buddhism is considered to be another major factor that changed the Japanese diet. As Buddhism was introduced to Japan, a diet based on grain and vegetables was raised in esteem and seasonings such as Shoyu and miso were developed. Unlike grain and vegetables grown on the ground, the production of sea vegetables is not influenced by climactic or social changes; sea vegetables have been constantly eaten in daily life. With the development of seasoning, sea vegetables became available in various cooking styles, which helped them to appear constantly on dining tables and become a necessary food. In particular, the use of sea vegetables in miso soup has been a Japanese tradition and still exists today.
3. Dried and preserved foods
When there was no refrigeration, drying sea vegetables made it possible to store them for a long time. It is another strong factor why sea vegetables spread across the nation. Sea vegetables can be dried by hanging and absorbing sunlight; Kombu gathered in the north could be sent to different parts of Japan. Dried sea vegetables, unlike other vegetables, can be soaked in water and eaten without losing their freshness. It is a feature that no other vegetables have.