Around 300 varieties of Japanese rice are cultivated nationwide
In Japan, new rice varieties are developed every year. So far, more than 700 varieties have been developed, of which about 300 varieties are apparently grown all over Japan.
The best-known variety, Koshihikari, is a superstar, dominating most of the rice acreage in Japan since 1979. Rice growers continue to develop and promote new varieties that are as good as — or even better than — Koshihikari.
In Japan, many rice-producing regions are surrounded by mountains and experience heavy snowfall in winter. In spring, melting snow carries all the goodness down rivers and streams. The nutrient-rich water is used for the irrigation of paddy fields when the rice seedlings are planted, which is when the agricultural year gets underway in earnest. Careful and regular irrigation management tailored to the growth of the rice plants is the key to successful rice cultivation, while cold, mineral-rich snowmelt is crucial to rice flavor. Rice is grown by means of environmentally friendly methods, using the smallest-possible quantities of pesticides and chemical fertilizers. Safety and peace of mind are at the heart of rice cultivation in Japan.
Viscosity, hardness, and sweetness vary from one variety to another. You can be sure of finding one that you like.
These are Japan’s best-known varieties of rice and their distinguishing characteristics.
- Sweet, starchy, and shiny. A synonym for well-balanced, premium quality rice.
- Light and easy to swallow. Ideal for breakfast.
- Moist when cooked. Tasty even once cold.
- Large grains and a robust texture. Pleasantly fragrant and filling. A lighter taste than Koshihikari.
- Shiny and starchy. Tasty even once cold. Ideal for making rice balls.
Rice is Japan’s staple food and features in a variety of recipes, from plain cooked white rice to onigiri rice balls, sekihan (sticky rice cooked with adzuki beans), sushi, chirashizushi (where the ingredients are sprinkled over sushi rice), and futomaki sushi rolls.