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Class: Phaeophyceae
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Order: Fucales
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Family: Sargassaceae
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Genus: Hizikia
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Species: H. fusiformes
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Binomial name
Hizikia fusiformes
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Template:Nihongo is an uncommon type of edible seaweed commonly found on rocky coastlines. Its two names, which are examples of ateji, mean deer-tail grass and sheep-nest grass respectively.

Hijiki (Hizikia fusiformes) is a brown sea vegetable growing wild around the coasts of Japan, Korea, and China. It is a traditional food and has been freely sold and used as part of a balanced diet in Japan for centuries. Hijiki is known to be rich in dietary fibre and essential minerals. According to Japanese folklore, hijiki aids health and beauty and the thick, black, lustrous hair of the Japanese is connected to this regular consumption of small amounts of hijiki. Hijiki has been sold in United Kingdom natural products stores for 30 years and hijiki's culinary uses have been adopted in North America.


Appearance and preparation

simmered hijiki (top) with chazuke (L) and chikuwa (R)

Hijiki is green to brown in colour when found in the wild. After collection, it is boiled and dried to be sold in the form of dried hijiki. Dried processed hijiki turns black. To prepare dried hijiki for cooking, it is first soaked in water then cooked with ingredients like soy sauce and sugar to make a dish.

Hijiki is black when found packaged in stores. It is a slightly bitter tasting seaweed that comes in short strips about the size of a match. It is similar in texture and appearance to black spaghetti.

Okinawans like to eat it simmered with vegetables and soybeans. Hijiki is best used in dishes that require simmering. Soak hijiki and dried soybeans about two hours till tender (Okinawans prepare them the night before), then simmer them in a bit of water with carrots and konnyaku, and season with soy sauce, sugar, and sake. A half of cup of dried hijiki will do for four people.

Possible arsenic health risk

Several government food safety agencies advise consumers to avoid consumption of hijiki seaweed.[citation needed] Tests results have indicated that levels of inorganic arsenic were significantly higher than in other types of seaweed. Government food safety agencies that have issued warnings include:

Most hijiki seaweed is sold at the wholesale and restaurant levels. It is normally eaten with other foods such as vegetables or fish. It may be added to foods that have been steamed, boiled, marinated in soy sauce or fish sauce, cooked in oil, or added to soup. Hijiki seaweed may also be mixed in with rice for sushi, but is not used as a wrap to prepare sushi.

Consumption of more than 4.7g hijiki seaweed per day could result in an intake of inorganic arsenic that exceeds the tolerable daily intake for this substance, whereas the average daily consupmtion of hijiki seawead by Japanese people is estimated at 0.9g.[1]. Although no known illnesses have been associated with consuming hijiki seaweed to date, inorganic arsenic has been identified as carcinogenic to humans, and exposure to high levels of inorganic arsenic has been linked with gastrointestinal effects, anemia and liver damage. People who follow a macrobiotic diet that often includes large amounts of seaweed may be at greater risk.


  1. Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare of Japan, Q&A about the arsenic in hijiki seaweed, in Japanese

Possible health risk

External links

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