5 Famous Japanese Rice Brands & Their Origins

Japanese rice is so much more than what you see on your plate at a sushi restaurant. It’s a rich tapestry of regional cultivation styles and geography. Over time, different regions have pioneered various styles well-known in Japan today. Each production area has a technique that has developed its own signature rice brand, each with unique qualities for specific culinary applications.


Different Regions, Different Rice 

Rice has been around for 10,000 years, with hundreds of regional varieties resulting from geographic qualities and cultivation techniques. Some of the most common are basmati rice (East Asia), arborio (Italy, Spain), and Japonica rice (Japan). Japonica rice is a short grain characterized by its glossy finish, starch content, and high moisture levels. However, even on the island of Japan, several distinct rice varieties reflect the history, land, and people of each region.


The Geography of Rice in Japan

map of Japan

Fukui Prefecture

Fukui Prefecture, also known as the birthplace of Japan’s most popular rice brand, Koshihikari, is a coastal climate ideal for rice production. With the Ryōhaku Mountains on one side and the Sea of Japan on the other, the hot, humid summers are perfect for rice paddy cultivation. The thawed mountain springs flood the rice fields in the summer, providing nutrient and mineral-rich water that form exquisite grains with excellent flavor and texture.


Akita Prefecture

Home of Akitakomachi rice, another popular Japanese rice cultivar, Akita Prefecture is categorized by its long winters and cooler, shorter summers compared to other regions in Japan. The region also sees a large temperature difference between day and night. Many believe that this drastic temperature change is responsible for the hardiness and unique qualities of this rice brand.


Yamagata Prefecture

Located on the northwest coast of Honshu, Yamagata Prefecture is home to a more modern cultivar known as Tsuyahime. The mountainous region is known for cool, snowy winters and hot humid summers. As you may have understood by now, water is a huge factor in the quality, flavor, and texture of rice; Tsuyahime is a perfect example of this. The rich and nourishing waters from Yamagata’s beech tree forest give this rice the unique texture, flavor and hardiness it is known for today.


Hokkaido Prefecture

Hokkaido, home of the popular rice brand Yumepirika,  is another region known for its mild climate, long winters, and cool summers. The coastal prefecture faces both the Pacific Ocean and the Sea of Japan. However, unlike most regions in Japan, this cold and wet landscape does not have a rainy season, and instead very icy winters. Yumepirpika, as a result, is a variety highly resistant to cold weather.

Nanatsuboshi, also native to Hokkaido, is by far the region’s most popular cultivar. The rich mountain water, along with the temperate continental climate, provides it with a firm texture and stickiness perfect for sushi.

Let’s look at some of these popular Japanese rice brands to get a better idea of their qualities.


Famous Japanese Rice Brands


Koshihikari flavor profile

Arguably Japan’s most popular rice brand, this short-grain cultivar was developed over 60 years ago in Fukui Prefecture. Koshihikari is well-known for its translucent, smooth, and pearly quality. With a distinctly sweet flavor, this rice is ideal for dishes that utilize rice as a base, such as sushi. The grain has prospered commercially due to its ability to adapt to a variety of temperatures and environments while retaining its signature taste and appearance.



Akitakomachi flavor profile

Cultivated in the heart of Akita Prefecture, this grain is considered a premium rice variety that is very close to Koshihikari in flavor and texture. Named after Ono Komachi, a representative of Akita who was born in the prefecture, it is celebrated for its stickiness, soft, supple texture, and unique flavor, making it the ideal candidate for sushi, onigiri, or any other dish. 

Akitakomachi is smaller in size and has a more subtle flavor than other rice varieties. The grain has a meatier bite than Koshihikari and has a nice shine to it once cooked. As with almost all Japanese rice, it is to be enjoyed both hot and cold.



Tsuyahime flavor profile

Developed in Yamagata Prefecture, this rice variety is easier to cultivate than others and is well known for its glossy appearance when cooked; the name Tsuyahime directly translates as “glossy princess”. Developed by Shinai farmer Abe Kameji, this rice brand is derived from his original cultivar, named “Kameno-o”, the same cultivar from which Koshihikari evolved. When cooled down, the grains enlarge and effectively preserve their rich sweet and umami flavors.



Yumepirika flavor profile

This high-end variety, native to Hokkaido Prefecture, has received much acclaim for being the result of the region’s cutting-edge breeding technologies. Yumepirika received the most prestigious A-grade from the Japan Grain Inspection Association in 2010. The name is derived from the Japanese word for “dream” (yume) and the indigenous word for “beautiful” (pirika).

The grain is glossy when freshly cooked, resulting in a soft, yet springy texture. It has a mild sweetness, which is preserved even when cold. Enjoy this rice variety with bento boxes or onigiri rice balls. High-class restaurants, such as Ryotei and ANA international flights, rely on this rice variety as a staple for their dishes—that’s how you know it’s worth trying!



Nanatsuboshi flavor profile

Hokkaido’s most popular grain variety, Nanatsuboshi, is one of Japan’s favorite cultivars to use for sushi rice. Its light flavor and impressive stickiness, granted by its high starch content, provide the perfect qualities for making anything from nigiri to maki. The grain has a well-balanced flavor that is preserved for hours after it is cooked and is great to use with many other rice-based dishes of your choice.

It’s no wonder why the majority (over 80%) of restaurants in Sapporo and Hokkaido—the two regions known for their sushi—use Nanatsuboshi rice!


Enjoy the journey or rice from different regions of Japan!

One of the best ways to learn about Japan is by exploring all the different rice varieties it has to offer. Trying some of these quality Japanese rice brands will take you on a journey of the subtle flavors and textures unique to each region. 

We encourage you to try it for yourself. See if you can taste the rich mountain water and the ocean breeze in each individual grain.

Rice Collection