Japan’s latest hit in the current natural/health food boom is pristine seawater sucked up from the ocean depths. Its adherents claim deep seawater, as it is known, to be pollution- and bacteria-free and rich in minerals, including potassium, phosphorus and magnesium.

According to a Tokyo-based company Ako Kasei, which became one of the first to market the water last summer, deep seawater flows as a current at a depth of at least 200 meters and requires 2,000 years to circle the globe. It rarely mixes with water above this level.

Ako Kasei also extracts the salt from such saline water and sells it separately as a mineral-rich natural sea salt at ¥450 per 15-gram bag. Its desalinated deep seawater sells for ¥3000 each 10-litre bottle.

Other manufacturers have been quick to catch on to a growing trend and other seawater processors have sprung up, especially in the Kansai area around Osaka.

One project to utilise this unusual commodity even has government backing. The Kochi Prefectural Deep Seawater Laboratory in Muroto City is funded by Japan’s Science and Technology Ministry.

Among the first to realise the potential of deep seawater as a health product the lab uses reverse osmosis to desalinate the water,which is then sold on to health food companies and bottled as mineral water after the salt content in the remaining enriched seawater is removed. According to the researchers the water is effective in lowering blood pressure.

Deep seawater is also in demand from Japan’s burgeoning natural cosmetics industry, which is promoting the mineral water as an ingredient in skin care products and cosmetics.

“Not everybody is aware of the benefits of deep seawater yet,” says beauty journalist Michiru Shida. “But word is spreading fast as people seek out purer alternatives to regular drinks and cosmetics.”

By Michael Fitzpatrick, just-food.com journalist based in Japan