The culture* of rice


If I were to ask you what Japan produces, chances are you would say something along the lines of “cars, TVs, cellphones, video games”. And in our travels outside of Kyoto, we did see many factories that produced just those and more. But there was something else that dominated the landscape as far as the eye could see: rice paddies. Rows upon rows of rice plants, neatly organized in rows and columns, seemed to change in front of our eyes between being arranged in horizontal, diagonal and vertical lines as our bus sped past and our point of view changed. (We spent six weeks studying, among other things, this effect as seen in gardens. It was refreshing to see it manifest itself outside of them.)

From the fields...

From the fields… the table.

…to the table.

Rice is an extremely important staple of Japanese diet. All the traditional kaiseki meals we had, from breakfast to dinner, were accompanied by a bowl of white rice. Faced with its presence everywhere, it’s hard to guess the veritable economic war surrounding it. After World War II, bans and exorbitant tariffs were placed on imported unprocessed rice. Though they are not as strict anymore, the result is that the Japanese pay much more than Americans for the same amount of rice. But that does not seem to deter them, and rice can be found in your meal (think sushi), your dessert (daifuku: a rice cake, or mochi, filled with a sweet paste), your drink (sake anyone?). And in all its forms, it’s simply delicious.



*culture, noun

BrE /ˈkʌltʃə(r)/    NAmE /ˈkʌltʃər/

1. [uncountable] the customs and beliefs, art, way of life and social organization of a particular country or group


5. [uncountable] (specialist) the growing of plants or breeding of particular animals in order to get a particular substance or crop from them

From Oxford Advanced Learner’s Dictionary