Rice is a major part of Japanese food culture, to the point that you can't have Japanese food without it. Rice is grown nationwide, but depending on the variety and area, the flavors are different. Here are some of the major rice producing areas and some delicious brands.
1. Hokkaido's Yumepirika
Yumepirika is glossy when it's freshly cooked, and you can enjoy a soft, springy texture. It has some sweetness, and it's delicious even when cold, so it's great for bento lunchboxes or onigiri rice balls. It's used in high-class restaurants like ryotei, as well as in first class meals on ANA's international flights, so please try it.
2. Miyagi's Hitomebore
Hitomebore is a special rice with a gentle flavor. It has a perfect amount of glossiness and stickiness, and is very delicious yet extremely smooth, so it's popular with older people. Because of that, it goes very well with all types of Japanese food. Even though the grains are bigger than Koshihikari, it's cheaper, so it's a popular brand for restaurants like teishokuya (restaurants that offer set meals) with plenty of dishes.
3. Akita's Akitakomachi
Akitakomachi is a rice brand representative of Akita. It's springy, has a strong flavor and sweetness, and a wonderful aroma. It has a high level of moisture, so it's delicious even when cold. It's good with gently flavored Japanese food, and perfect for sashimi and sushi. At the antenna shop Akita Bisaikan near Shinagawa Station, they offer kiritanpo made with Akitakomachi. Kiritanpo is a regional specialty of Akita, in which cooked rice is mashed onto a stick made of cedar or bamboo and grilled. The kiritanpo offered at Akita Bisaikan is grilled after being covered in fragrant miso, so you can try the Misotanpo for 514 JPY (incl. tax) for one, or the Kiritanpo hotpot course for 3,090 JPY (incl. tax).
4. Yamagata's Tsuyahime
Tsuyahime means "gloss princess," and as the name implies, it's rice that's very glossy and has a beautiful white appearance. The moment you take a bite, the sweetness and flavor of the rice permeates through your mouth. The balance of the stickiness and the flavor is why it's popular. It goes well with simple foods that show off the flavor of the rice, and it's delicious when cold so it's good for bento boxes. You can try it when freshly cooked at AKOMEYA TOKYO in Ginza, so please do if you have the chance!
5. Niigata's Koshihikari
Koshihikari is one of Japan's representative brands. It's known for being springy, sticky, and aromatic. When you take a bite, the sweetness and flavor spreads through your mouth, and it's a delicious type of rice loved by Japanese people. You can enjoy the Mikaku Mansai no Niigata Gozen set (1,980 JPY (incl. tax)) at the Niigata Shoku Rakuen in Omotesando, which is made with Koshihikari and other Niigata ingredients.
*Photo is for illustrative purposes.
Koshihikari from Uonuma cooked in a clay pot from Niigata no Mikaku Mansai [Niigata Gozen]
6. Kumamoto's Hinohikari
Hinohikari has relatively small but thick grains, so it has a great texture. It's a blend of Koshihikari and another brand called Koganebare. From Koshihikari it inherited a strong flavor and great balance of stickiness and aroma, so it's a very high-quality type of rice. It goes well with a relatively wide range of side dishes, and it's so delicious that you can eat it every day without getting tired of it, so it's loved by lots of people. You can try it in the Hyakunen no Tabi Monogatari Kareigawa (1,080 JPY (incl. tax)) bento from Mori no Bento Yamadaya, which won the Kyushu Ekiben Grand Prix. The Kyushu Ekiben Grand Prix is a competition of bento meals offered at train stations all around Kyushu. Please try it if you can!
*Photo is for illustrative purposes.
7. Tochigi's Nasuhikari
Nasuhikari was made from a blend of Koshihikari and Aichi #87. Its characteristic is how large each grain is. It's glossy, sweet, and aromatic, and has the same level of stickiness as Koshihikari. It's delicious even when cold so it's great as rice balls. The buffet at Kinugawa Onsen Hotel (5,400 JPY for adults, 3,780 JPY for elementary school-aged children, 2,700 JPY for toddlers, all incl. tax) offers this rice, so why not fill up on it?
Did you find a brand you're interested in? Depending on the variety, the flavor changes. You can compare their freshly cooked flavors at AKOMEYA TOKYO in Ginza, so please have fun taste-testing.
*Please note that the information in this article is from the time of writing or publication and may differ from the latest information.
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