SoraNews24’s Mr. Sato continues to live the high life (sort of) as he pairs the most expensive nori he could find with the cheapest rice available.

Recently, our ace reporter Mr. Sato has been enjoying some of the finer things in life. First came his ultra-luxurious 10,000-yen (US$92) wagyu beef bento boxed lunch. Next on his to-eat list was a 6,000-yen gyudon (beef bowl), and just last week his lunch was a 2,500-yen bowl of sea urchin ramen.

But surely he can stay thrifty when shopping for some simple nori (seaweed), right?


Craving some seaweed, Mr. Sato headed to the flagship store of nori maker Yamamoto, located in the Nihonbashi Muromachi neighborhood, one of the fanciest parts of Tokyo. Looking at the display window, he could make out some hefty price tags through the glare of the afternoon sun reflecting off the shop’s exterior glass.

▼ Nori sets priced selling for 5,400 yen (left) and 8,640 yen (right)

Yamamoto was founded in 1849, when Japan was still ruled by a shogun. The company’s historical pedigree means that while its less expensive nori varieties cost around 1,000 yen, on the other end of the spectrum the store also stocks premium versions, which are often given as presents during Japan’s mid-year ochugen and end-of-the-year oseibo gift-giving seasons. And at the very top end of the store’s selection is this…

…a 12,960 yen (US$117) canister of Premium Select Roasted Nori (goku ginmi yaki nori in Japanese).

This highest of high-class nori is only offered at Yamamoto’s Muromachi branch, but Mr. Sato wondered who would buy such pricey seaweed? Certainly not him, which is why even he found it mysterious as his body, seemingly acting of its own accord, entered the shop and pointed a finger towards the Premium Select Roasted Nori, as his vocal cords, once again seeming to operate independently from his brain, created the sounds for “That one, please” and slipped the words from his mouth.

When he came to his senses, Mr. Sato was back out on the street in front of the shop, and realized he was now the owner of this exclusive marine product, which he took back to SoraNews24 headquarters for a taste test.

As we mentioned, Yamamoto’s higher-priced nori is often purchased a gift, and so a lot of care goes into its packaging. The Premium Select Roasted Nori’s outermost layer of protection is a handsome black box, with an almost lacquer-like shine and the name of both the company and the product written in striking gold-colored calligraphy.

Open up the box, and inside is a metallic canister.

Remove the top, and next comes a plastic cover, with a tear-away sealing underneath.

And finally, once you’ve gone through all that, you’ll see your nori, distributed into 48 packets, each containing five slices of seaweed.

But even though the packets are sealed, the inside of the canister still has the rich mixture of earthy and marine fragrances characteristic of nori.

Having spent 12,960 yen on seaweed, Mr. Sato’s remaining food budget was pretty tight, so he decided to pair the Premium Select Roasted Nori with a pack of microwavable white rice from the convenience store across the street from our office.

Once the timer on the microwave went off, Mr. Sato placed a piece of nori atop the rice, grabbed his chopsticks, and pinched up a mouthful of the piping hot grains.

He popped the morsel into his mouth, and experienced a moment of heaven on earth, brought to him via the plant from the sea. The nori was enticingly crisp and sophisticatedly delicious, with its mild bitterness mixing with the comforting flavor of the rice.

But most wonderful of all was the smell, which was enhanced by the heat of the rice and wafted towards his smiling face on the steam rising from the container. The aroma conjured up memories of the gourmet nori served by elegant ryokan inns at breakfast, eaten while looking forward to the promise of adventure and surprises in a new part of the country.

So yes, Yamomoto’s Premium Select Roasted Nori is definitely expensive, but each of those packets of seaweed is also a packet of optimistic happiness, and with 48 packets in the canister, you can stretch that happiness out over the course of many, many meals.

Shop information
Yamamoto Nori-ten / 山本海苔店
Address: Tokyo-to, Chuo-ku, Nihonbashi Muromachi 1-6-3
Open 9:30 a.m.-6 p.m.
Closed January 1

Photos ©SoraNews24
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Follow Casey on Twitter, where he first learned seaweed was edible by reading a Hardy Boys novel in the third grade.

[ Read in Japanese ]