We went to Yamagata to interview Mr. Goichi Endo, who is said to be the number one rice farmer in Japan.
Mr. Endo has taken the first place four times in a row in a rice competition. He is one of the only seven rice farmers in the whole country who have made it into the hall of fame. The environmentally friendly rice is grown without using any pesticides or chemical fertilizers in Yamagata Prefecture where the air and water are clean.
“When you eat the rice, there is a sweet aftertaste” Mr. Endo says as he describes the characteristics of his rice.
Every single grain is big, and as soon as you put it into your mouth the sweetness spreads inside your mouth, which truly makes it the number one rice in Japan. In addition, Mr. Endo travels around Japan to teach his craft and give guidance to other rice farmers, and this kind of gentle personality is also reflected in the taste of his rice.
Koshihikari and Tsuyahime, which are varieties of rice that Mr. Endo grows, are produced only in small quantities, but you can buy them from showrooms in Yamagata, and even on the internet.
What is Yamagata?
Yamagata Prefecture, which is located next to the Sea of Japan in Tohoku region, can be accessed in three hours from Tokyo by shinkansen train.
It is popular as a region where you can enjoy various fruits, like cherries, grapes, melons, and La France Pears, throughout the year.
In addition, Yamagata has seafood that is collected from the Sea of Japan, and high-level Yonezawa beef. It is a place where you can enjoy a wide variety of different foods.
Cuisines that use rice
Yamagata’s rice is no doubt delicious even if you eat it as it is, but it is also used in other dishes.
Mairuu by Rokube Kobo is a product that was one of the winners in a rice flour product competition in Yamagata. It is a new curry and stew powder that is a mixture of rice that is grown manually with great care, and gohachi miso, which is an old and beloved product in Yamagata.
Other products include pain de campagne from Mikiya Yogashiten, Milk Bread, a damp rice flour chiffon, from Oyatsu Kobo, and plenty more. These products are all easy to eat, and even foreigners, who are not familiar with rice grains, can enjoy them.
Local Dewa33 sake in Yamagata
Sake, which is made from rice, is the representative alcohol in Japan. Here, we will introduce a sake that is made from Yamagata’s delicious rice. Dewa33 is an acknowledgement that is given to Junmai Ginjo sake (a type of sake with no added alcohol), which is made of 100% Dewa-sansan, a rice variety that was developed for the sole purpose of making sake.
Even though the same rice variety is used for these sake, they taste different because the brewing process is different. If you are looking to enjoy sake in Yamagata, look for sake with the Dewa33 designation, and try some of them out.
For snacks to eat while drinking sake, we recommend Dadacha-mame (a snack made from green soybeans), which is a famous product in Yamagata.
Come to Yamagata to eat some delicious rice.