Rice is a staple food in Japan and has been for many years. The process of growing rice laid down the foundation for a culture based on social cooperation. Cultivation of rice began in Japan over 10,000 years ago. The land allowed for terracing plots of land with its design allowing control of water for irrigation, flooding, and then draining at the correct time. This need for large-scale coordination and the need for many laborers was met best by communities who listened, considered others and made needed adjustments for the benefit of the group.
See the beautiful terraced fields in this article.
At one point the value of a man was quite literally measured in rice. The labor of a Samurai was valued in units of koku 石 (the amount of rice needed to feed one man for a year). It is equivalent to 180 liters / 150 kilograms. The koku, a unit of currency was also used to describe the capacity of a ship, its ability to hold that volume of rice. Today a ship’s capacity is given in a measurement of ton/tonnage. A ton is 10 times the size of a koku. Today the Japanese lumber industry is the only place the koku unit is still used. See this site for a wonderful description of koku.
The rice grown and used in consumption in Japan is different than most of the rice we eat in the United States. I like rice to be fluffy and long grained. How could I eat this with chopsticks? The rice in Japan is short grained and sticky. It can clump together making it easier to pick up with chopsticks.See this link site to learn about the different types of Japanese rice.
I enjoy learning about other cultures and what they eat. Here is a recipe for Japanese and sushi rice. One of the things people put in their lunch boxes is called an Onigri. Watch this youtube to learn how to make an onigri. I bet you could make one sometime. Surprise your mom and dad by taking the leftover rice and making one of these for them.
Rice can be made into an alcoholic drink as well. It is called SAKE. This blog has a very nice article about a man who worked to make sake using the ways of the past. Even if you don’t read it, please take a look at the beautiful photos, especially the one of the BIG round pad of rice “where Komatsu spreads dark green spores of koji (Aspergillus Oryzae) mold over freshly steamed rice”.