Japan Data

Japan’s 2023 Rice Ranking Marks 43 Brands Top for Taste

Food and Drink

A total of 43 rice brands received the highest rank of Special A in 2023, with the results affected by the summer heatwave.

The Japan Grain Inspection Association recently announced the results of a taste ranking for various rice brands grown in 2023. Of the 144 brands evaluated, 43, or approximately 30%, received the highest rank of Special A. This was an increase of three brands compared to the previous year.

Rice Brands Promoted from A to Special A in 2023

Region Brand
Southern Akita Akitakomachi
Northern Tochigi Koshihikari
Northern Nagano Koshihikari
Eastern Nagano Koshihikari
Shiga Mizukagami
Northern Hyōgo Koshihikari
Southern Hyōgo Kinumusume
Shimane Tsuyahime
Saga Yumeshizuku
Northern Kumamoto Mori-no-kumasan
Southern Ōita Hinohikari
Northern Kagoshima Akihonami

Created by Nippon.com based on data from the Japan Grain Inspection Association.

In 2023, 12 brands were promoted from their rank of A in 2022 to Special A. Conversely, 12 brands that had been Special A the previous year were downgraded to A. The heatwave in 2023 was shown to have had a clear impact on certain regions. In rice cultivation areas in western Japan, heat-tolerant varieties like Mizukagami in Shiga, Kinumusume in the southern area of Hyōgo, and Tsuyahime in Shimane all rose in the ranks, while varieties in the Tōhoku and Hokuriku regions suffered widespread damage, with the rice grains becoming chalky and cracked. Koshihikari grown in Fukushima, Ibaraki, and Niigata, especially stood out among the brands that were downgraded from Special A to A.

The Japan Grain Inspection Association stated this was mainly due to cultivation areas in western Japan having prepared for heatwaves, such as by planting heat-tolerant varieties, and the tendency to take such measures is higher in the west, and lower in the east.

The brands, with names concealed, are ranked by 100 trained evaluators based on six factors: appearance, aroma, taste, stickiness, firmness, and overall evaluation. The assessment is carried out by comparing each brand to a standard rice, created from a blend of Koshihikari rice from multiple regions, and then giving it one of five grades, with the most superior being Special A. This was the fifty-third time the taste ranking has been held, having started with rice produced in 1971.

Number of Rice Brands Ranked Special A

Nanatsuboshi grown in Hokkaidō and Sagabiyori from Saga were both awarded Special A for the fourteenth year running. The rice brand that boasts being consecutively ranked Special A for longest is Uonuma Koshihikari grown in Niigata, which held that rank for a record 28 years from 1989 through 2016.

(Translated from Japanese. Banner photo: Visitors to a Japanese rice promotional event enjoy trying onigiri rice balls on December 9, 2023. © Jiji.)

rice agriculture