The archipelago of Japan has an abundance of marine bounty unlike any other, since its surrounded by three bodies of water: the Pacific Ocean, Sea of Okhotsk and East China Sea.
The Japanese holiday “Umi no Hi”, or Marine Day, celebrates the life-giving ocean every third Monday of July. This holiday also marks the beginning of summer, often celebrated by spending a day at the beach and enjoying the natural beauty of the ocean. A popular activity to give back to the ocean is throwing mud balls filled with purifying chemicals that clean the water!
The marine gifts that keep on giving
From nourishment to beauty, the seas and oceans that flank Japan are filled with treasures. Here are some of the most prized:
Shio, or sea-salt, is the umami-flavored salt of Japan. Along with fish and seaweed, it forms the holy trinity of Japanese cuisine. What’s more interesting is each of the water resources surrounding the Japanese archipelago lend a unique flavor to thesalts harvested from them. This is a sure way to add some depth to your spice rack! Japanese salt is truly a hard-working gift. As bath-salts, they are a relaxing ingredient to indulge in a warm, soothing soak after a long day.
The secret to Japan’s illustrious longevity can be traced from under the sea and onto their plates. The ingredient we are speaking of is none other than edible seaweed. Its marine origin makes seaweed a hotbed of antioxidants, vitamins, flavonoids and carotenoids. The edible algae support a longer, healthier life by improving blood sugar levels, heart health, and promoting digestive health. In coastal areas of Japan, agriculture remains a challenge. Seaweed is a good source of calcium, fiber, and zinc to fill in the dietary gaps of communities living in areas where agriculture remains a challenge. Wrap it around sushi or rice balls (Onigiri) or have it pickled, the sea is as culinarily diverse as it is nutritionally dense. Want to dine like a true local? Top a bowl of rice with a small rectangle and then use chopsticks to wrap the nori around a little of the rice before popping it into your mouth. Seaweed also goes beyond the restaurant menu, it is a gift from the ocean for purified and radiant skin. Don’t forget to ask for a seaweed body wrap at your next spa appointment.
Sushi is synonymous with Japanese food culture. Whether cooked or raw, seafood has been Japan’s staple diet ever since Buddhism was introduced in the 6th century CE. The archipelago is blessed with both fresh and saltwater fish. Unagi(freshwater eel), Anago(saltwater eel), Abalone, Mackerel, shrimp, crab are some of the popular ingredients in a typical Japanese meal.
Until recently, the rest of the world had not caught up with the hot-springs culture of Japan. In fact, Japan is the #1 hot-springs country in the world with 27,000 Onsens or “hot spring.” These hot springs are born of volcanic activity. The oceans then bring in the minerals from the eruption which is filtered as it passes through the mountain range. An Onsen can also be a cold-spring if it has any of the 19 minerals found in a typical hot spring- like sulfur, sodium bicarbonate, sulfate, zinc, etc.
Taking just a dip can clear your skin while a continuous soak can rid you of pain. Leaning on Japanese soaking culture, it’s a cleansing ritual for both the body and mind. If a trip to Japan seems far away, carve out some time for a relaxing experience at an authentic Onsen in your own area (or maybe even just a hot bath).