Hokkaido is a major producer of rice, boasting Japan’s largest crop acreage and yield. Most rice grown in Japan is from the Japonica variety, which has a rounder pill-like shape and stickier texture compared to the Indica or Javanica varieties. Varieties that are particularly sticky are known as glutinous rice. These can be processed into mochi rice cake after steaming. In addition, just about every party of Hokkaido also grows rice ideal for brewing Japanese sake, or rice wine. Rice is a staple of the Japanese people’s diet and is the center of Japanese cuisine. Yet rice goes well with Japanese, Chinese and Western cuisine, so despite Japan’s diversifying gastronomic culture, rice is consumed in large amounts not only at home, but also at restaurants and even fast food chains.
Most non-glutinous rice is cultivated from the Sorachi region and Iwamizawa City to Asahikawa City. Glutinous rice is mainly grown in Nayoro City, which is well known for this type of rice, as well as other northern parts of Hokkaido.
■ Map / Main producing municipalities
・ Total yield amount (non-glutinous & glutinous rice)
Iwamizawa City, Asahikawa City, Fukagawa City, Bibai City, Shintotsukawa Town, Nayoro City, Tohma Town, Shibetsu City, Numata Town, Takasu Town
Top-ten ranked municipalities in total yield are shown in the graph. Source: FY2013 Crop Statistics compiled by the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
Rice cultivation in Hokkaido has developed over the years by overcoming the harsh climate that includes cold temperatures and heavy snowfall. Since the variety called Kirara 397 debuted in 1989, breeding has been used to develop other types of Hokkaido rice that taste better and withstand the cold climate better. The Nanatsuboshi and Yumepirika varieties are highly acclaimed for their glossy appearance, sticky texture and great balance of sweetness. Both have received the Toku-A ranking, the highest possible, in taste tests performed by the Japan Grain Inspection Association. Currently, Hokkaido is cultivating rice in a more safe and secure manner by taking advantage of its colder climate to use less agricultural chemicals.
Rice cultivation in Hokkaido begins in April when seedlings are grown in greenhouses. Rice paddies are flooded with water in May and the seedlings are planted around the middle of the month. The rice stalks flower in summer and are harvested around the middle of September. Later, rice is dried, hulled and sorted. It is shipped as new rice only after passing legally required inspections.