Deciphering Rice Labels in Japan

Rice 米: There are so many types of rice in the Japanese grocery store, how do you know what you are getting? Well, to start with remember that Japanese rice is going to be short-grained, although some long or medium grain may also be imported.

Well let me touch on some basics on reading the rice labels in stores. I will update with some pictures in a bit, but I will try to get you started.

精米 polished (white) rice

玄米 unpolished (brown) rice

-産: where it is from

examples: 国内産 domestic (Japan), 福島県産 Fukushima Prefecture, 沖縄県産 Okinawa Prefecture, 新潟県産 Niigata Prefecture

精米年月日 date of rice polishing

産年 production year

新米 newly harvested rice

*** These years are in Japanese calendar, NOT western! So the year 2016 is 28年, 2015 is 27年, 2014 is 26年. Older rice tends to be discounted, so keep in mind you usually get what you pay for.

単一原料米 single-source rice (100% from 1 place)

複数原料米 multiple-source rice (from different places)

***  -割 indicates RATIOS (by 10’s). so 10割 is 100%, 6割 is 60%, 1割 is 10%, etc.

販売者 seller’s name (company)

内容量 contents volume

Some popular types of rice: (I will add some better descriptions later… gomennasai)

こしひかり (コシヒカリ) Koshihikari

ささにしき Sasanishiki

ひとめぼれ Hitomebore

もち米 Mochi-rice (glutinous rice, this is really more for sweets)

無洗米 no-wash rice

Later I will update this post with some of the mix-ins you can buy and which grains they contain… these are a great way to add nutrition to you average bowl of rice.

Rice coupons: おこめ券

おこめ券: okomeken. This means rice coupon or ticket. お “o” is the honorable prefix, 米/こめ kome is rice, and 券 ken is ticket / coupon / certificate.

I was fortunate enough to receive such a gift around Christmas and the New year. At first, I thought, “what???!” It seemed a bit strange. There is a national program set up where you can basically buy gift certificates for 1 kg of rice for people. You can use these tickets at pretty much any grocery store. I think it costs about 500円 to purchase these. But then you can give these out during holidays or special occasions. It is actually sort of convenient, and a nice gift in that you can choose your own rice, if you have a preference. Also, there is no expiration date!

In addition, many other places will accept these rice certificates; for my husband, one of these places is Joyfull restaurant. Instead of 1 kg rice, it can be used as 〜440円 discount on the bill. I had to read some blogs in Japanese to figure out the logistics of using it, and discovered some places will also redeem these, so I gave some to my husband so he could  eat cheaply. Not enough English blogs talk about using these okome-ken…

If you live in Okinawa, here are some places that will redeem rice tickets in addition to the grocery stores (grocery stores will have marked which rice can use okomeken, and when in doubt just ask): Makeman (home improvement store), Wafu-tei (restaurant), HottoMotto (bento store), Joyfull (restaurant), and some gas stations!

If you should want to purchase rice tickets (to give to other people), go to the service counter of a department store, and many of them will sell these.

This one is shamefully a bit crumpled from being in my husbands wallet. I should have kept the pictures from when it was brand new and perfectly smooth.