Culture’s beginning:
Rice-planting song
Of the far north


Rice is Japan’s cultural superfood, with vast social meanings. To many Japanese, rice is much more than just the mainstay of their diet. Even in modern industrialized Japan, where a tremendous array of food products is consumed, at table anything other than rice is called a side dish. Rice is always the staple, and any vegetable, fish, or meat is considered secondary. Throughout history, this grain has sustained the nation as an indispensable economic unit and provider. Rice has influenced many aspects of the people’s economic, social, and religious activities.

In fact, old Japan revolved around rice cultivation, and the development of agricultural society centered on rice. The people’s lives were governed and regulated by the seasonal rhythms of rice growing: sowing, planting, fertilizing, weeding, flooding, harvesting, threshing, hulling, polishing – and cooking and eating rice three times a day. Their lives from birth to death were bound to rice. Rice was the staff of life, the symbol of fertility, and an integral part of festive occasions. Innumerable superstitions and proverbs surrounded the growth, use, and consumption of rice, dictating people’s customs, manners, habits, and ways of doing things.