What Makes Niigata Koshihikari Rice So Delicious?

Snow culture (EN)

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Koshihikari is one of Japan's most popular rice brands and is a popular type of rice among Japanese people.

Koshihikari rice produced in Uonuma, Niigata Prefecture, is particularly famous for having won the "Special A" award for decades in a row in the "Rice Taste Ranking" which evaluates the deliciousness of rice.

What kind of place is Niigata that continues to produce such wonderful rice?


Where is Niigata prefecture?


Niigata


Niigata Prefecture faces the Sea of Japan and is known for its heavy snowfall.

It takes about 70 minutes from Tokyo to enter Niigata Prefecture by bullet train.


Climate for rice cultivation

In order for rice to taste good, weather conditions are very important.

According to the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Department of Niigata Prefecture, the following three conditions are important.

  1. The average temperature during the rice-growing season should be about 25 degrees Celsius.
  2. The temperature difference between day and night is large during the rice-growing season.
  3. Longer daylight hours during the rice-growing period.

Because all three of these conditions are met, Niigata Prefecture has become famous as a rice-growing region.


Abundant Water from Melting Snow

Niigata Prefecture, located on the Sea of Japan coast, receives a lot of snow in winter.

The graph below is a comparison of the average monthly precipitation in Niigata and Tokyo, as reported by the Japan Meteorological Agency.


a comparison of the average monthly precipitation in Niigata and Tokyo, as reported by the Japan Meteorological Agency (Unit : mm) / Niigata here / Tokyo here


Because of heavy snowfall in winter, The average of monthly precipitation from November to February in Niigata is higher than Tokyo. This snow eventually melts and becomes a river containing a lot of nutrients from the humus created by the fallen leaves in the mountains and forests, and heads for the plains.

In the spring, when the seedlings have begun to take root and are in need of abundant water, the snowmelt water provides clean agricultural water for the paddy fields in Niigata Prefecture.


Geography for Rice Cultivation

In Niigata Prefecture, the longest river in Japan, the Shinano River, and many other rivers bring fertile soil and water to the region, creates a rich plain for rice cultivation.

Echigo plain (Echigo heiya / 越後平野) is now used for rice cultivation / 越後平野の水田風景 CC BY 2.1 jp from Wikipedia


Research on breed improvement and cultivation techniques

In addition to climate, developments in agricultural technology have also contributed to rice cultivation.

In Niigata Prefecture, there are research centers that work on rice breeding, such as 農業総合研究所作物研究センター (the Crop Research Center of the National Institute of Agrobiological Sciences [No formal english name])

In addition to improve rice varieties, the research center also conducts research on cultivation techniques to ensure the stable production of delicious rice.


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