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The Importance of Rice in Japan

Ewa Nowogorski

There is no greater representation for Japan than rice is. Like in many Asian countries, rice is an important staple. Many people eat rice every day, and some eat it at every meal. Rice is extremely versatile and affordable. You can use it to make all kinds of dishes, sweet and savory. It can be eaten both hot and cold.

There are 4 main types of rice: short-grain, brown, half-milled, and mochi. Short grain rice is the type of rice you see being used everyday in curry and sushi. Brown rice, or genmai, is unpolished white rice which usually has more fiber and is unrefined. Half-milled is a cross between the first two, and has a milder taste. Mochi rice is usually pounded and very chewy, used for sweets like mochi and dango.

Besides these 4 types, there are actually hundreds of varieties of rice in Japan, and farmers in different places usually grow their own strains of rice.

Many people love rice, and would easily choose it as their favorite food. I love rice as well, but it can be quite expensive. Rice usually costs between 250 and 500 yen per kilo, but some rare, luxury varieties can cost over 2000 yen per kilo. It’s kind of ridiculous, but the reasons for these prices are often political and social.

Japanese people tend to eat rice only grown on their home continent, and they shun rice grown in China or Taiwan. Rice grown in areas close to Fukushima is also looked down on because of fear of radiation contamination. Rice grown in Niigata is renowned for being the tastiest rice in Japan because of the clean water there. It is also known for the best nihonshu, a type of Japanese sake made from fermented rice.

As a person who eats rice almost everyday myself, I can’t imagine living a lifestyle without it, and I can easily see why rice is so important in this country. It literally brings people together as they work to grow it, because growing rice is definitely not a one-man process.

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