In the cold seas off Hokkaido, Japan's northernmost island, a brown algae known as kombu or kelp, grows in a dense underwater forest. Floating on the water in small skiffs, men and women cut the kombu free using razor-sharp knives that are attached to long bamboo poles. As the kombu floats to the surface it is gathered with wooden rakes and placed in the boats. Once back on land, the kombu is laid out to dry slowly and naturally in the sun. Mitoku Kombu is harvested by hand from the cold ocean depths from the northern island of Hokkaido. The kombu is naturally sun-dried making it high in vitamins. Kombu is indispensable for making a tasty cooking stock for soups, sauces and noodle broth. When cooked with beans, kombu has the unique ability to soften the beans, shorten the cooking time and make them more digestible.