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Types of Japanese rice


torakris
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The food budget thread got me thinking about prices in Japan especially the price of rice.

The Japanese govt strictly controls all the imported rices, imposing such a high tariff that they fall in the price range of Japanese premium rices, while they are not premium quality.

Japanese rice prices are about 7 times the world average and it is the staple food!

There is quite a bit of propaganda turning the Japanese off foreign rice claiming inferior quality and taste.

I know quite a few Japanese (my in-laws included) who take Japanese rice with them on trips overseas because they just can't bear to eat that inferior product.

Here is an interesting article:

http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/agout...1999/ao260c.pdf

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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There is quite a bit of propaganda turning the Japanese off foreign rice claiming inferior quality and taste.

Every once in awhile I see news articles reporting the results of blind taste tests. I just got one e-mailed to me three days ago, in fact:

http://www.thesunlink.com/shns/story.cfm?p...02-07-03&cat=DD

"Professor Ken Chinen fed California and Japanese rice recently to 161 Japanese-born consumers, most of whom said they'd always preferred Japanese rice. The results: Of those who said they liked Japanese rice better, 40 percent misidentified what they were tasting."

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I saw an informal tasting of this type on Japanese television way back in '90 or '91. They were stopping people on the street and asking them to taste the difference between the American made rice and the Japanese one. Everyone went into the tasting 100% sure they would know the difference immediately, 1/2 of them were proved wrong.

This was over 10 years ago and the rice that is imported from the US is still only used in sake making (and of course the cheap sake at that).

I must be married to one of the few Japanese that admits there is no taste difference, but then again he prefers Jasmine rice to Japanese :unsure: ?

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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  • 1 year later...

I love koshihikari rice. My employer brings it to me from Japan and it is the most gentle, beautiful rice I have ever cooked with.

My question is: Is Koshihikari a brand, a rice variety or a style of growing?

Thanks.

cook slow, eat slower

J.Chovancek

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Koshihikari is a cultivar -- there are cultivars which are used exclusively for sake, for example, but koshihikari is the cultivar which is the modern standard -- cooks up soft, white, glossy, and sweet.

Most of the popular new brands have koshihikari or a close relative as one genetic "parent".

Promoting each cultivar as a desirable brand, and selling cultivars separately rather than blending them all together is much the same as selling Jersey herds' milk separately from Friesian herds' milk.

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Most of the popular new brands have koshihikari or a close relative as one genetic "parent".

In Japanese supermarkets it seems that more than half of the rice on the shelves is Koshihikari or Akitakomachi (as the lables all proudly announce that) but if you look really closely at the smaller print you will see they are normally some type of blend or some type of distant relative....

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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There are an incredible number of varieties of rice in Japan, some of them are difficult to find outside of their growing region though. Here is a list of some of te most popular ones that can be found all over Japan and pictures of individual grains:

http://www.c-matsumoto.com/yomimono/hakubutukan.html

for those who don't read Japanese they are in this order

koshihikari

akitakomachi

hitomebore

hinohikari

kirara397

milky queen

mochi rice

red rice

black rice

Indica rice

wild rice

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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This is my very first post.

Let me get to the point first: Koshihikari is a variety of rice born in 1944 in Niigata prefecture as a cross between other varieties Norin Nos. 1 and 22. The cross was later named Etsunan No. 17 in Fukui prefecture. And, finally, in 1956, it was registered with the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry as Norin No. 100. The name Koshihikari comes from the phrase "Koshi no kuni ni hikari kagayaku" (brilliant in the countries of Koshi (i.e., Niigata and Fukui)).

Koshihikari is grown not only in Niigata prefecture but also in other parts of the country such as Chiba prefecture, and even in the United States.

http://www.isbellfarms.com/

Koshihikari is so good that it now accounts for one-third of the total rice acreage in Japan.

The quality of Koshihikari (and any other variety) considerably depends on the district in which it is grown. The Uonuma district in Niigata prefecture is famous for producing Koshihikari of top quality, and this is why Koshihikari produced in this district, or Uonuma-san Koshihikari ("san" meaning "produce"), is called "burando mai" (brand rice).

Every year, Japan Grain Inspection Association releases its "Kome no shokumi ranking" (rice palatability ranking).

http://www.kokken.or.jp/html/kok03100000.html

Uonuma-san Koshihikari is ranked as Toku A. (Toku means Special.)

http://www.kokken.or.jp/html/kok03110100.html

In short, Koshihikari is a variety of rice, while Uonuma-san Koshihikari may be called a "brand rice".

I live in Shiozawa town in the Uonuma district, which I just mentioned. I'd like to tell you a little bit about my town.

Shiozawa town is renowned for producing Koshihikari of the very finest quality. In fact, the town is the perfect place for growing Koshihikari (or any other variety of rice) because of its 1) crystal-clear water from melting snow (Shiozawa is in one of the snowiest regions in the world, along with Yuzawa town, a neighboring town, which is famous as the locale of "Snow Country" by Kawabata Yasunari, a Novel Prize-winning novelist), 2) large temperature difference between day and night in the ripening period of rice due to its location in Uonuma Basin (very hot during the day but cool during the night), and 3) superb agricultural techniques, which are absolutely necessary.

A few years ago, Kaisei JAS Law (Revised JAS Law) was enacted, which requires all rice dealers, including farmers wishing to sell their rice directly to customers, to have their rice inspected by a Shokuryo Jimusho (Local Food Agency Office) for grading and put a label on the bags of rice they sell to indicate the area of production, the variety, the year of production, and other necessary information. So, the next time you buy a bag of rice, take a closer look at the label.

This has been a rather lengthly, maybe boring, description. In my next post, I'd like to write about something more interesting.

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This particular year, I buy a bag of 10-kg 100% Shiozawa-san Koshihikari for 7,000 yen. Unforfunately, the price is 20-30% higher than usual because of the poor crop last year. Sometimes I wish I could pay less for rice and more for meat, vegetables, fruit, and sake. Poor Japanese.

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Everyone went into the tasting 100% sure they would know the difference immediately

I had a similar experience in the 80s, when I used to be a tour guide. Groups (Japanese, of course) would roll up to the biggest Japanese restaurant in Auckland, NZ. They would cry with joy over the "real" Japanese rice. They would call out the cooks, who would tell them that they were eating Australian rice - but nobody ever believed them...after all, how could a Japanese not "know" when s/he was eating the real thing?!

As for the price of locally grown rice, I think it's an outrage that I have to pay 4,500 yen or so ($50) for the very cheapest 10kg (22lb) bag of rice from the 2002 crop, stale rice with broken kernels. If I want 2003-harvested koshihikari, I'd better cash in my husband's life insurance...

I feel really angry when I hear politicians going on about how decadent young Japanese won't eat rice -- who but they made rice so expensive that frugal housewives have raised the past generation or two of kids on bread for breakfast and noodles for lunch (made from cheap imported wheat, of course...)?

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That sure was an informative post!

Pirate, Uonuma-san Koshihikari is not hard to find, just expensive for a staple food. Department store basements very often have a specialty rice store selling small quantities of rice.

I sometimes wonder if it *is* all really from Uonuma, because it is so readily available, but that's just my suspcious mind working...

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the rice prices this year are killing me we are on an extremely tight food budget until December (actually a tight budget on everything! :biggrin: ) and we are eating less and less rice every month. I am actually able now to buy jasmine rice and basmati rice for cheaper or equal to the Japanese rice and we are eating more of those along with a lot more pasta and bread. I think our rice consumption is down to about 15kgs a month for our family of 5.

This is also the first year I have actually almost considered throwing out a bag of rice because it was the most awful I had tasted. It was a cheap blend and I ended up making large batches and refrigerating it to make fried rice for me and only me as I couldn't possibly feed this rice to my family.

Kristin Wagner, aka "torakris"

 

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I don't have any picture of it available at the moment. And I failed to find one on the Internet, either. The label looks like this (table in the middle).

http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/INET/CHOUSA/2003/11/60dbc105.htm

When I take a picture of it, I'll post it.

As helenjp suggested, I guess department store basements are the surest and easiest places to get 100% Uonuma-san Koshihikari rice, since you are a visitor to Tokyo, but I can't give you any specific information as to where to buy it because I've been out of Tokyo for more than a decade; I don't even know how much Uonumasan-Koshihikari actually costs in the Tokyo area. Won't somebody based in Tokyo help me with this question?

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I sometimes wonder if it *is* all really from Uonuma, because it is so readily available, but that's just my suspcious mind working...

Despite strict regulations, there still seem to be a considerable number of mislabeling cases.

http://www.metro.tokyo.jp/INET/CHOUSA/2002/10/60CAT400.HTM

which says that 22 out of 45 bags of rice contained varieties not indicated on their lables.

My current solution to this problem is to buy directly from a reliable farmer.

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It's going to hard to buy the real thing. My impression is that the department stores are filled with concessions and so one can't rely on the store. Probably the most upscale store I've seen in Tokyo is Wako; their windows are spectacular but I've never entered the store so I don't know if they carry food products. Usually it's best to go to a reliable specialty store with a very knowledgable proprieter . What about Kinokuniya?

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It's going to hard to buy the real thing.

I've finally come to a conclusion. I can't find a single rice store anywhere in Japan that I can recommend. Even the store below, Suzunobu, located in Meguro ward, Tokyo, falls short of my expectations in terms of price. If it's the real thing that you're looking for, then look no further. Get the real thing from a farmer in Shiozawa. If you are serious about getting some, say 2, 5, or 10 kg, or even 30 kg, I'll see what I can do -- talk to one or two farmers that I know of. What do you say?

Rice store Suzunobu:

http://www.suzunobu.com/

Price of Uonuma-san Koshihikari rice at that store:

http://www.suzunobu.com/shop15/nigata/uonuma.htm

Knowledgeable proprietor of the store:

http://www.aiueoffice.com/main.cfm?PID=Nic...D=3559&Person=0

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Just for reference, something that at least claimed to be "Uonuma-san Koshihikari" was going for 4600/5kg at my local Mycal Saty. 9200yen per 10kg...That's at leasst $4.60 per pound...I'm scared to eat this stuff in case I break my teeth on all the gold nuggets it must contain!

Cheapest rice spotted today, 3660 yen/10kg in a "automatic rice-polishing machine" place run by an agricultural co-op near the family graveyard.

Average cheapo price at local supermarkets...4000 to 4500 yen per 10kg. Rice of reasonable quality, but not necessarily harvested within the past 12 months, up to 6000 yen/10kg.

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This is also the first year I have actually almost considered throwing out a bag of rice because it was the most awful I had tasted.

I know how you feel; I had a similar experience last fall. When it comes to komai (old rice; rice produced the previous year), there seems to be nothing you can do. I tried honey, Japanese sake, and mirin, but to no avail. The odor just didn't go away.

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Is the rice situation in Japan still one of price subsidies and import barriers? I would assume that it is. Rice is a strategic product for Japan and unfortunately that likely overrides any taste concerns that might arise on a ministerial level, and if substitutes are available such as pasta and wheat products I would expect the situation to continue for you.

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I, for one, pretty much admire the Japanese protectionist policies regarding rice. Ultimately they only protect the farmer-but who is to say that is a bad thing? Japan has a finite (and pretty small) amount of arable land suitable for rice production and were the tariffs on foriegn imports lifted the Japanese rice industry would likely become a fondly remembered dream. Southeast Aisa and the US can supply rice that most Japanese would find acceptable (in blind tests anyway) and they can certainly supply it cheaper (labor costs in SOutheast Aisa keep the price low and in the US-ironically-federal price supports and huge mechanized farming operations make it possible for American Agribusiness to export tremendous amounts of low priced, extremely high quality rice.

The result of this situation is much like what we have here in Louisiana and the US in general with sugar produced from cane. Were it not for some pretty serious tariffs, there would be NO sugar industry in South La. The farmers could not possibly compete with the competition from South of the border. The Domino plants in Houston and New Orleans would be refining Mexican raw sugar in a New York minute if the tariffs were listed and they could buy the raw product from MX and Central America. What is that lame old saw? "We're really sorry, it's just business".

It's all about what a people consider to the most important and apparently the Japanese have chosen (if by no other means than the willingness to pay stunning prices for a daily staple) the Japanese rice industry as something that they are willing to bite the bullet on. An entire US Senate election here in Louisiana just turned on the issue of sugar tariffs and price supports. Like the Japanese and their situation with rice farmers, very few natives here in La. know any sugar cane guys personally but it is somehow comforting to know that the sugar farmers are there and that our food is being made with the same local stuff our grandparents and great grandparents used.

Brooks Hamaker, aka "Mayhaw Man"

There's a train everyday, leaving either way...

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I look forward to what other people have to say on this, because it is a very complex topic.

I'm in two minds...

On the one hand, I grew up in NZ. There was a lot of pain, and probably many errors, in the dismantling of the subsidy system, but the agricultural sector is no longer the butt of everybody's jokes.

The question is, does Japan's precarious agricultural sector need protection, or a kick in the ass? I don't see that the current forms and level of protection are helping matters, because the subsidies are not essentially aimed at grass-roots producers, nor at consumers, but at local business and local government, because the crop those subsidies are designed to produce is NOT a healthy ag sector, but solid political support for the LDP (Japan's electorates are weighted toward the rural areas, because representation is not fully proportional despite some tiny reforms).

Government pays subsidies to rice farmers, then government buys most of the crop, stockpiles years of useless, tasteless rice that nobody wants...meanwhile, we average low-lifes can't afford to BUY this year's rice to put on tonight's dinner table. I'm not talking about paying a little more for superb quality, I'm talking about plenty bucks for dregs. Hey, where's that packet of spaghetti we bought half-price at the discount store the other day...

The average urban Japanese guy's image of Japan's rice-growers is not pretty. I teach horticultural students English at a national university...that means the kids are not stupid. However, they normally tell me that they chose horticulture because their grades were not good enough for the more popular departments -- so they mostly didn't do more than basic biology in high school.

The 1st year students think that horticulture is backward, corrupt, and that there are no chances for an interesting career. Of course, these are almost all city kids, with no actual experience of any part of the agricultural sector. Their interests in horticulture are usually either research/product development, or ecology/environment. Admirable, but they are still doing the old heigh-ho, heigh-ho march along paths 50 years out of date.

What if the government (and the political candidates) stopped the handouts, and put that money towards encouraging basic education and research, new technology, market research? What a hope! Feh.

Off to cool down and plan this year's classes!

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