Rice (米・こめ)

The Japanese are those who cultivated rice for more than 2000 years for the main staple of rice.

Therefore, rice is the most important agricultural product in Japan, the basic of Japanese culture is related to rice.

Japanese Sake, rice cakes, rice crackers, and dumplings(Gyoza) are all made from rice.  

On auspicious occasions, Japanese eat rice boiled together with red beans, which they also serve as an offering to divinities.

Japanese bring rice balls along on picnic, and mix the rice with vinegar so that it won’t spoil and make various kinds of Sushi. 

The Japanese also used the stems from the harvested rice plants as straw to make Straw-sandals and Straw-raincoats and even as material to make thatched roofs.


Rice balls (おにぎり)

These are made by rolling rice in the palms of the hands.

They are also called Onigiri.

Usually, they are made into triangular or round shapes with a pickled plum or fish in the middle and wrapped with laver on the outside.

Like sandwiches for the Americans, they are the most popular item for carrying along when on outings or hiking.

In urban convenience stores, they have become popular food items for single men and women.



 Rice boiled together with red beans (赤飯)   

Sekihan literally means red rice.

When rice cultivation was originally brought to Japan, it was mainly red rice.

Gradually, as white rice was popularized, red rice was stopped being produced, and instead began to be prepared by mixing red beans to glutinous rice.

This red rice boiled together with red beans was dedicated and eaten on ceremonial occasions.

Even today, for festivals and felicitous occasions with relatives (for example, when babies are born or for weddings), sekihan is eaten and dedicated to the divinities.



 Rice cakes (餅)

Roughly divided, there are two kinds of rice; the regular kind that is boiled to eat and glutinous rice.

Glutinous rice becomes Mochi after it is steamed and pound into a paste with a wooden pestle.

At New Year, Mochi is invariably grilled or put into soup with rice cakes and vegetables and eaten.

For the Japanese, Mochi is, along with rice, the oldest food, and like rice boiled together with red beans, red Mochi is eaten together with white Mochi on ceremonial occasions and dedicated to the divinities.

Thus, red and white make an auspicious color combination for the Japanese.


Rice crackers (せんべい)

These are the most popular Japanese confectionery.

They are made from glutinous rice and wheat flour.

The dough is streched thinly into circles or squares of about seven to eight centimeters, or put into molds, then baked; taste is supplied by baking it with soy sauce applied or by mixing it with sesame and salt.

Senbei were perfected in the Edo Period(1603-1867) and there are various kinds throughout Japan.

Thinly-cut, dried rice cake called Kakimochi is considered one kind of Senbe.