Reaching Rausu, a fishing village in Eastern Hokkaido, isn't easy. Public transport is almost non-existant to this small community situated halfway up Shiretoko Peninsula, which juts out from the edge of Japan's northernmost island. Though it's remote and tiny, Rausu produces some of the nation's best konbu (kelp), an essential ingredient in Japanese cuisine.

Leaving by car from Abashiri at dawn, we snake our way along the winding roads of Hokkaido's Shiretoko National Park. After arriving, we meet Katsuhiko Amano at the Rausu Konbu Association office and follow his zippy white van as he drives up the coast to where local fishermen are gathering wild konbu seaweed.

I scramble down a bank to a rocky beach where several families are processing their harvest. I am immediately drawn to the wide smile stretching across the face of Kazuyo Shimakura. She runs the beach crew, which consists of friends and family, while her husband, Kazumi, gathers wild Rausu konbu from a boat offshore.