Only a few local villagers are allowed to harvest iwanori in Hiso.


Hiso’s residents treasure their locally harvested iwanori. This is a special kind of seaweed that can be harvested only in the winter, between mid-November and February, and only by designated local villagers. Today, there are only four villagers left in Hiso who know where and how to harvest it. During the harvesting season, they leave their houses at around seven in the morning, go over the mountain, and arrive at the harvesting area by the shore.

Iwanori, which is literally translated as ‘rock seaweed,’ grows on the rocks by the shore where strong, high waves hit. Over the years, the waves have created a large, flat surface of rocks. This landscape of huge horizontal rocks is called senjojiki, or ‘flooring of a thousand tatami mats.’ Senjojiki is not just a perfect place for iwanori to grow, it also forms one of Hiso’s mesmerising landscapes.

Harvesting iwanori is a perilous task; people have lost their lives while harvesting in the past. But villagers still go harvesting, craving its exceptional flavour and taste. In fact, Hiso’s iwanori is so exceptional that it has even led rulers to seek control over the area. Referring to the period when nori was brought to the Tokugawa shogun (Tono) as a precious gift, Hiso’s iwanori is also known as Tonoshima (Tono Island) nori.

Sadly, some villagers told us that, possibly due to climate change, they can harvest less and less good quality nori nowadays. Iwanori has become much rarer these days, but it continues to be treasured by Hiso villagers.







Text by Maki Nakata
Photography by Edward Hames

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