Why is Japanese Rice So Good?

 Did you know the Guinness World Record for the most expensive rice was $109 USD/kg for Japanese rice? 

Fluffy and slightly sticky, Japanese white rice has not only been a major staple to the Japanese diet but has also been hailed as a delectable carbohydrate by people around the world. What exactly makes Japanese rice grains so tasty?

We have uncovered several key reasons to address this burning question.

  1. A rich history of rice cultivation
  2. High standards and testing maintained
  3. Advanced technology
  4. High-quality nutrition

Credits: Japanese Taste

A rich history of rice cultivation

Japanese farmers have been farming rice for over 4,000 years since its introduction into Japan at the end of the Jomon Period. Paddy field sites, irrigation channels to divert river water, and rice storage areas were unearthed at the earliest settlements of the Itazuke site in Fukuoka Prefecture.

Credits: Places picked by Brani

Where is almost all of the rice that the Japanese consume grown? Japan. What makes Japanese rice so tasty could be attributed to the high levels of painstaking communal effort required in its cultivation.

The fact that the Japanese people plant rice seedlings in paddies distinguishes them from the large-scale rice farming in the West, where seeds are directly sown into the soil instead. In Japanese rice farming, a long list of steps is involved, from paddy planting during springtime to harvesting in autumn. Hence, farmers have to merge their skills and energy to manage resources such as water and fertilizer, eliminate pests, and other duties involved in the harvest of rice. As such, community groups called Yui came about and became a cornerstone of Japanese society.

Credits: Heritage of Japan

Truly, the years of experience in the cultivation of rice have equipped Japanese farmers with the right set of know-how to cultivate good quality rice.

High standards and testing maintained

To ensure the highest quality of rice delivered in every batch released for the market, Japanese rice undergoes stringent grading by the Japan Grain Inspection Association yearly. Using clinical laboratory tests, the association has been testing the quality of Japanese rice as well as other crops in the harvesting season since 1971.

Credits: Kett

The ranking looks at 5 key factors that determine the standards of rice: appearance, aroma, taste, stickiness, and hardness. The following table shows the ranks of the test results.

Rank

Definition

Super A or Toku A

Premium; competitive in the market

A

Above average

A’

Average

B

Below average

B’

Lowest quality

Since Japanese rice farmers aim to achieve the highest grades, it is no wonder millions enjoy Japanese rice dishes, from sushi to donburis. 

Advanced technology

To maintain the high standards, several smart farm technological developments have made their way into Japanese rice farms. These offloads hours of effort on rice farmers and reduces production costs so that the farmers are less worn out at work, and able to look after the rice with greater focus and motivation.

An example of the technologies would be drones that spray agrichemicals such as pesticides and fertilizers on rice. According to Chiba Shota, a farmer who has tapped into sustainable innovative technology to grow more rice efficiently, drones have enabled farmers to better shoulder unpredictable weather events. If the weather suddenly worsens and spraying has to be done quickly, the same number of farmers can finish spraying “in half the time it once took”.

Credits: Nikkei Asia

Furthermore, since the drones are camera-mounted, changes in the features of rice plants, such as color and height, can be detected. Subsequently, the data allows farmers to formulate more accurate decisions on time, regarding various concerns such as the number of agrichemicals to use and when to use them. Such concerns once depended too much or even solely on previous precedents or hunches, so having new technology in place improved the accuracy of rice cultivation methods and ultimately, the quality of Japanese rice.

High-quality nutrition

Besides the taste, aroma, or texture, Japanese rice does rather well from a nutritional standpoint.

Japan continues to be known for having one of the highest life expectancies in the world. One of the most cited reasons is its high consumption of rice, which is regarded as the central component of Japanese cuisine.

Although Japanese rice is rich in carbohydrates, it boasts a low-fat content of only around 1% to 2% of the calories. This is due to how the rice is cooked with water without any fatty ingredients such as coconut milk with a simple rice cooker. Thus, Japanese rice meets consumers’ energy needs without supplying them with too much fat.

Also, there are other essential nutrients in Japanese rice such as iron, potassium, and fiber. Nonetheless, consider that such nutrients are supplemented more richly by side dishes such as vegetables and meat, which are aplenty in Japanese cuisine. Depending on Japanese rice alone for these nutrients is inadequate for having a well-balanced diet.

Credits: HelloFresh

Sushi is a delicious and popular Japanese dish, but have you ever wondered how much the Japanese actually eat it?

If you're curious to know how much sushi the Japanese people eat in an average week, we also delve into what types of sushi are popular in Japan, how often they typically eat it, and whether Japan's love of sushi is reflected globally. 

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