KonbuMakonbu, Hidaka Konbu, Atsuba Konbu, Naga Konbu, Rausu Konbu, Rishiri Konbu

Konbu stock (dashi) is an essential ingredient in traditional Japanese cuisine (washoku), which is on the UNESCO Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
Konbu itself can become a cooked food, such as nimono (simmered dishes), kobu-jime (sandwiching layers for sashimi), konbu-maki (konbu rolls), tsukudani (savory preserve) and many other such dishes.

KelpGyoren Hokko’s Konbu

Some 90% of the konbu harvested in Japan is, in actual fact, top-quality konbu from Hokkaido. As a company in the Hokkaido Gyoren Group, we make the most of our strong local connection to handle konbu from all parts of Hokkaido, staying well stocked to fill the requests of our clients and consumers.

Gyoren Hokko’s Konbu

OriginHokkaido is the home of
good quality konbu.

Nearly all of the konbu eaten in Japan comes from Hokkaido.
Varieties vary depending on harvesting location, as does flavor and cuisine application.

  • 日本の昆布の90%以上が北海道産

    More than 90% of Japan’s konbu comes from Hokkaido
    Confidence in quality thanks to direct link to producers

    More than 90% of Japan’s konbu comes from Hokkaido, and the reason for that is seawater temperature. Konbu grows well in cold seawater, which makes the coastal regions of Hokkaido ideal habitats for the various types of konbu harvested throughout Hokkaido. And, because we at Gyoren Hokko deal directly with each konbu producer, and sell on konbu bundles, we are able to fully guarantee genuineness and quality of products, which in turn earns the peace of mind of our clients and consumers.

  • 国内外で認知されている人気ブランド

    Popular domestic and overseas brand recognition “Hokkaido Konbu”

    In 2013, “washoku” (traditional Japanese cuisine) was added to UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage List, garnering Japanese food culture attention from around the globe. And, a basic staple of washoku is dashi (soup stock). Hence, along with katsuo (bonito), konbu is a leading staple for making dashi. Thanks to UNESCO, foreigners (mostly in Europe) have taken a liking to the flavor of konbu, with recipes using konbu dashi beginning to gain popularity. And it is Hokkaido konbu that underpins such overseas support. With Hokkaido konbu, each producing region has put in place standards to rigorously maintain quality control, which is why so many people trust Hokkaido konbu as a brand.

QualityVarious Types of Hokkaido Konbu

Just on the island of Hokkaido, there are various types of konbu, each used in different ways.

  • Makonbu (Giant Kelp)

    Makonbu (Giant Kelp)

    Growing in the south of Hokkaido along the coastal region from Tsugaru Strait to Funka (Uchiura) Bay, this konbu is noted for the elegantly flavored and clear-colored dashi it makes. It is also used to make shio-konbu (salted kelp), tsukudani (savory preserve), tororo-konbu (fluffy shredded kelp), oboro-konbu (stiffish shredded kelp), battera-konbu (kelp for pressed sushi) and many others.

    Production center (origin)
    Coastal region from Matsumae to Muroan, centering on Hakodate
    A broad-leafed, meaty kelp used to decorate betrothal gifts
    Main applications
    Dashi, shio-konbu (salted kelp), oboro-konbu, tororo-konbu, tsukudani, battera-konbu, etc.
  • Hidaka Konbu (A Softish Kelp)

    Hidaka Konbu (A Softish Kelp)

    This is harvested from the coastal region Hidaka, mainly around Cape Erimo in Hokkaido. Besides being used to make soup stock, its softness makes it easy to stew, so it is used in nimono (simmered dishes), konbu-maki (konbu rolls), tsukudani (savory preserve) and other such dishes.

    Production center (origin)
    Mostly originates along coastal region of Hidaka.
    Simple to prepare because it is thin and soft, which makes it quick and easy to cook.
    Main applications
    Dashi, nimono, konbu-maki, tsukudani, oden-dashi, etc.
  • Atsuba Konbu (A Thickish Kelp)

    Atsuba Konbu (A Thickish Kelp)

    This is harvested along the coastal region between Kushiro and Nemuro, in the eastern area on the Pacific side of Hokkaido. A broad, thick, fleshy kelp, rich in a slimy polysaccharide called fucoidan, It is mostly used in simmered dishes.

    Production center (origin)
    Originates along coast east of Kushiro.
    It is broad-leafed and thick.
    Main applications
    Nimono (simmered dishes), konbu-maki (konbu rolls), tsukudani (savory preserve), su-konbu (sour konbu prepared with vinegar), etc.
  • Naga Konbu (A Long Kelp)

    Naga Konbu (A Long Kelp)

    This is harvested along the coastal region between Kushiro and Nemuro, in the eastern area on the Pacific side of Hokkaido. As its names suggests, this kelp grows to nearly 20 meters long, and it is used in nimono (simmered dishes), konbu-maki (konbu rolls) and tsukudani (savory preserve).

    Production center (origin)
    Coastal region east of Kushiro
    Grows to between 10 and 20m long, as its name suggests.
    Main applications
    Nimono, konbu-maki, tsukudani, su-konbu (sour konbu prepared with vinegar), etc.
  • Rausu Konbu

    Rausu Konbu

    This harvested on the Shiretoko Peninsula along the Rausu coast. It is mostly used a dashi konbu for soup stock thanks to its rich flavor and excellent aroma. Indeed, because of its pleasant palatability, it is also cut into thin strips and used as a konbu snack.

    Production center (origin)
    Rausu coastal region
    It is brownish in color, broad leafed and soft, enabling a highly fragrant soup stock to be made from it.
    Main applications
    Dashi, konbu-jime (sandwiching layers for sashimi), oshaburi-konbu (kelp snack), etc.
  • Rishiri Konbu

    Rishiri Konbu

    This is harvested along the coastal region from the Sea of Japan to the Okhotsk Sea, mainly around the islands of Rishiri and Rebun as well as the town of Wakkanai. It is used as a soup stock konbu thanks to its clear color and fragrant aroma. It is also used to make tororo-konbu (fluffy shredded kelp) and oboro-konbu (stiffish shredded kelp).

    Production center (origin)
    Originates along northern coastal region of Wakkanai on Hokkaido and around the nearby islands of Rishiri and Rebun.
    It is slightly hard and is used to make a clear-colored, fragrant soup stock.
    Main applications
    Dashi, shio-konbu (salted kelp), tororo-konbu (fluffy shredded kelp), oboro-konbu (stiffish shredded kelp), etc.

Do you know the differences between konbu types?

Natural Konbu and Farmed KonbuNatural konbu is kelp that has been growing naturally for two years on rock reefs. Whereas, farmed konbu involves artificial cultivation of natural kelp spores, which, when big enough, are then attached to ropes (kelp lines) and cared for as they grow. Of these, the kelp harvested after one year is called “sokusei”, or “forced cultivation” and that harvested after two years is called “yoshoku”, or “farmed”.
Natural konbu attaches to rock reefs to grow there on the seabed, so it is vulnerable to damage from sea urchins that dine on it as a food source. Whereas, farmed konbu grows on horizontal ropes close to the sea surface, where sea urchins cannot reach and cause damage. Yet, plenty of sunlight reaches farmed konbu just under the waves, stimulating greater photosynthesis activity, which often makes farmed konbu look more attractive than natural konbu.
A price comparison between natural and farmed konbu shows that natural konbu is more expensive, yet, there is hardly any difference in quality, which means that farmed konbu sometimes sells for more at bidding auctions. Furthermore, compared to natural konbu, farmed konbu provides a stable annual crop, which makes it a favorite among buyers.

About GradesThe number of grades and naming formats vary depending on the type and quality of the konbu concerned, but, in general, the grades are divided into four (1st to 4th). The grade is determined by the length of a single leaf of kelp, its thickness, weight, hue and other various deciding factors.


From right to left: 1st grade (green string), 2nd grade (red string), 3rd grade (purple string), 4th grade (brown string)

ProcessKonbu Processing up to Shipping

  • 01


    The konbu harvest starts as early May and continues through to the middle of September, but the peak period is generally in summer. Small boats, manned individually or by pairs, set out at dawn to harvest konbu using long hooked poles for shallow spots or screw poles for deep spots. Konbu harvesting only takes places on fine days suitable for drying out konbu in a single day.

  • 02


    The landed konbu is laid out to dry on graveled areas known as kanba. The kelp blades are carefully laid out one by one, with skilled workers carefully checking the state of drying and turning the blades over as necessary to dry them out. The fate of the konbu rests on getting it all dry in one day. It is a battle against the weather and time, as dried out kelp has to be in the warehouse by evening.

  • 03


    Once in the warehouse, each kelp blade is screened in accordance with the standards for shape, color, weight and width. Even blades harvested from the same kelp ground have different grades. And, depending on the screening result, the blades will be tied like a bundle of sticks, folded and tied or bundled in some other way. This series of tasks is referred to as blade selection.

  • 04


    Once blade selection is finished, the bundled kelp blades are checked by an official from the inspection body, to see whether the bundles conform to the standard specifications prescribed by the inspection body. The bundles that pass inspection are stamped with the seal of approval according to their grade and can be safely shipped out.


How did the “Konbu Road” popularize Japanese food culture?

Konbu comes from a very cold place, and yet it is used extensively in warm places like Kansai and Okinawa – why is that?
The answer to that mystery can be found in the “Konbu Road”.
In the middle of the Kamakura period (1185-1333), konbu trading ships sailed from Matsumae in Hokkaido to all parts of Honshu (the main island in Japan). Once in the Muromachi period (1336-1573), konbu was taken from Ezochi (Hokkaido) to Tsuruga in Echizen-no-kuni (Fukui prefecture), from where it was forwarded on to Kyoto and Osaka.

Moving onto the Edo period (1603-1867), Kitamae-bune (cargo ships) started sailing directly to the “kitchen of the nation”, Osaka, without going via Tsuruga or Obama, and later going to Edo (Tokyo), Kyushu, Ryukyu Kingdom (Okinawa prefecture) and onto to Qing (China).
And that expanding route from Hokkaido to various places across Japan (and then onto China) is the “Konbu Road”. And, wherever konbu was delivered, it was given innovative uses in cuisine. Hence, the Konbu Road played a role in spreading Japanese food culture.

Konbu Road

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