Mother of the Sea. How Manchester saved Sushi.

We like talking about Manchester inventions and those Mancunians that have changed the world. Here’s a story of a Manchester food hero that dates back to the early 1900’s. This might just change the way you think about sushi.

In 1901 Kathleen Drew Baker was born in Leigh. She spent her childhood learning about horticulture and gained a scholarship to study at the University of Manchester. She graduated in 1922 and began working as a lecturer at the university.
It was during her time as a lecturer and researcher that she made a crucial discovery. This discovery wasn’t really to effect the food community in Manchester. But it would make a huge difference to life in Japan. Kathleen Drew Baker had discovered a way to farm seaweed. In particular the type of seaweed that is used in sushi.
Nori seaweed cultivation had almost stopped in 1950’s Japan. Due to harsh monsoons and lack of seeds in Nori the Japanese were at a loss for how to farm it. Drew Baker had discovered that seashells could act as a host environment to allow the seaweed to grow.

Mother of the Sea

Once her work was shared to scientists in Japan they immediately got to work farming Nori.
Kathleen Drew Baker never visited Japan and sadly died in 1957. She had no idea how important her findings were to a country she had never even seen.
Today Japan still celebrates Kathleen. On April 14th there is a Drew festival to celebrate her life. She is affectionately known as “The Mother of the Sea.” In Uto Kumamoto there is a statue dedicated to her memory.
So next time you are enjoying sushi you can remember Kathleen. Another food hero of Manchester.

Our Manchester food tours are a great way to explore Manchester. If you’d like to learn more go to

A portrait of Kathleen Drew Baker