Egonori (Campylaephora hypnaeoides) is called ‘ugo’ in the Tango province and is traditionally found in the cities of Miyazu and Ine.
Egonori is an algae that has a bushy, filamentous thallus that grows from 10-20 cm tall. Its texture is soft and slightly rubbery. It forms tangled masses that are dark red in colour with purple to yellowish tones. Branching is dichotomous, in all directions. It grows on a stony substrate but also on other algae such as Sargassum, Cystoseira and Coccophora, preferably in calm, shallow sea water.
In some coastal areas of the Tango province, there is a ban on fishing egonori which is lifted around July. The amount that can be harvested and the availability varies from year to year. When the harvest is abundant, it is dried and stored for later use. In fact, the seaweed does not grow every year, but needs 4-5 years to grow. It is commonly said that a good harvest can be obtained every 10 years.
It is harvested using a key-shaped instrument that makes it easy to pick; at the port the egonori are then cleaned to remove the fragments of the other algae that it grows with. This cleaning is done by hand. The egonori are then dried in the sun.
To make ugo, it is necessary to boil the dried egonori in hot water and allow the broth to cool. Once cooled, the broth has a typical gelatinous consistency. Ugo is eaten with ginger flavoured soy sauce.
Today it is hard to find this product on the market, and it is an increasingly rare traditional food, despite the fact that in the past it played a key role in the self-sufficiency of local populations.
Ugo is also essential for Buddhist celebrations and rituals. It is cut and placed on lotus leaves to be served in front of Buddha. In addition, the seaweed is also used for offerings and Shinto rituals.
Taking Ugo before or during a meal affects the increase in blood glucose levels by alleviating glucose-induced endothelial dysfunction.