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Rice in Japanese Culture: Why is it so important

The cultivation of rice involved the entire village and create a really collaboration between people, which is believed to be the origination point of the Japanese culture. Going back in time, wet rice cultivation was a very tough task and couldn’t be achieved by someone alone. As a result, all the families in the village started sharing resources and irrigation facilities. They made arrangements to make the water flow downhill, providing water to all the surrounding families.

The houses those days were made very close to each other so all families started becoming good friends as they knew they were going to be neighbors and partners for years to come. They usually planted the rice on the same day at the same time. This showed the power of group work, this enhanced their ideas and decision making. This historic event shows us the importance of group work and harmony which is still observed by the Japanese, even though only a few of them are farmers. This event teaches people all over the world the importance and significance of team work and synergy. 

Rice also has religious significance in Japanese culture. The Shinto religion is also strongly linked with rice cultivation. Emperors and priests used to be very serious and committed to the cause of growing rice. A few months before his death, one of the emperors was more worried about the rice than his health. That tradition still goes on today, the emperor takes care of his crops and many of his parties/events have rice products such as moochi (rice cake) and sake (rice wine).

From the 16th century, rice was used as the currency of Japan.  Monetary transactions were made in the form of bushels of rice. Rice was like gold is today, the most valuable trade item of that time. The amount of wealth was determined by the amount of rice one owned. This went on till the middle of the 19th century.

Language is the heartbeat of any culture. In Japan, rice has different names. Cooked rice is call “gohan” which means ‘cooked rice’ or simply ‘meal’. Gohan is further extended to help create names for different times of meals, for breakfast “asagohan”, for lunch “hirugohan” and for dinner ”bangohan”. This shows the importance of rice in a Japanese diet.

A daily source of energy for billions of people is the most significant part of Japanese culture. As you can see that there is almost every reason be it historical, religious or economic that makes rice the base of Japanese culture