chew on this
Posted by Barry Silverstein on September 30, 2009 04:17 PM
Rice, cultivated in Japan for more than 2,000 years, plays an integral role in Japanese culture. But this ancient staple is feeling the pinch of global warming and a tight economy. Bad weather and a national decline in rice consumption is leading rice growers to invent new brands, according to The Japan Times.
Rice is grown in different prefectures (territories), each of which competes with others to produce the most desirable product. The Saga Prefectural Government, for example, developed Sagabiyori "with the aim of outclassing Kyushu's representative Hinokihari brand of rice."
The Hinokihari brand is under attack because high summer temperatures over the past few years have affected both its yield and its quality. That opens the door for new rice brands that may be more heat resistant. For example, Genkitsukushi is being planted in Fukuoka, and farmers in Kagoshima Prefecture are relying on the Akihonami brand.
Hokkaido leads Japan in rice production, but it is fighting a poor quality image. That's why this prefecture is just now launching a higher-grade brand, Yume Pirika, which was well received in taste tests held last spring.
The more successful rice brands could soon find their way into the bento box. "There's a chance for new brands of rice to spread centering on the food industry, such as restaurants and 'bento' boxed lunch retailers," says Tetsuro Shimizu, chief research at the Norinchukin Research Institute.