8 Types of Japanese Rice: A Guide To Japanese Rice

by Erika Shinomoto
types of japanese rice

Before you purchase Japanese rice to cook your favorite meals, read this post on types of Japanese rice! It will help you understand which is the best Japanese rice for you to buy to make your favorite Japanese dish be it sushi or onigiri! 

Rice is a huge deal in Japan. Along with noodles, rice is also a staple in Japanese households. Rice truly is the most fundamental unit of Japanese cuisine. The reason why it is so popular is because of its versatility. 

Rice enhances the flavor of every kind of dish and you can easily pair it up with anything. There are so many different types of Japanese rice that you will be amazed at the various varieties you can try.

Types of Japanese Rice

There are two basic types of Japanese rice. The first one is uruchimai – ordinary rice, which is known as Japanese rice or Japanese short grain rice. This is the type of rice that is most commonly used for making food items such as sushi, rice balls, and other everyday dishes. This is also the rice that goes into the making of sake and rice vinegar. 

The second type of Japanese rice is mochigome, which is known as Japanese sweet rice or glutinous rice. This rice is used to make mochi rice cakes or wagashi sweets. 

Both of these types are known to be sticky. But despite this, they cannot be used in place of one another. The Japanese sweet rice is stickier, chewier, and more glutinous as compared to the Japanese short grain rice. 

Main Classifications of Japanese Rice

Japanese rice can be classified into three main categories – long-grain Japanese rice, medium-grain Japanese rice, and short-grain Japanese rice. This classification is made on the basis of their length-to-width ratio. 

Japanese Long Grain Rice

Long grain Japanese rice is the easiest to recognize. You can easily tell it by its appearance and size. The grains of this type of rice is long and cylindrical in shape. This is the most commonly used rice in Japan and it has a length that is almost 4 to 5 times its width. I love eating this type of rice because it is so fluffy, but at the same time, it has a certain firmness to it. Also, when eating, I do not like when my rice grains stick to each other. Even in that regard, this rice is perfect. It stays separated, which makes eating it more enjoyable.

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Japanese Medium Grain Rice

This type of rice has a length that is usually 2 to 3 times its width. When cooked, you can enjoy the tender and moist grains of this rice. It is slightly chewy in texture and also sticks together a bit.

Japanese Short Grain Rice

This type of rice is short and plump. It is not very long. Also, when you properly cook this type of rice, it sticks together. However, there is no trace of mushiness. Also, this type of rice has a higher starch content than other types of rice.

Japanese Rice Types

#1 — White Japanese Rice

The polished grains of white rice is the one that I go for when I am on a time crunch. Why? It hardly takes any time to cook white rice. It is so because the layers of white rice grains are stripped off. And because of this, the rice absorbs water easily and quickly, making sure you have a steaming bowl of rice in front of you in no time. 

Another reason why I am a fan of white rice, despite it not being as rich in nutrients as other types of rice, is because it has the husk, bran, and germ removed. Also, it is very easy to digest this rice. 

It is probably because of all these properties that it is the chosen rice of over 70 percent of the Japanese population.

#2 — Brown Rice

This is my go-to rice when I am keeping a check on my weight and my health. Trust me, there are thousands of people who turn to brown rice for all the benefits that there are. The unpolished brown rice has tons of nutritional benefits. 

But, this is the rice that needs you to show a lot of patience. Since it is unpolished and whole, it requires you to soak it in water for a long time. The cooking time is also longer as compared to other types. I generally prefer brown rice when I am home and do not have to rush to fulfill my other duties. 

I love the rough texture of the rice. It is unlike the sticky grains of white rice, which may turn out to be difficult to eat for many. I would not recommend this rice for children and elderly people who may have a hard time digesting the grains. 

#3 — GABA Rice

I had never heard of this until quite recently and I am glad I found it. This is a germinated version of brown rice. It is quite rich in its nutritional value, which makes it one of my favorites. But that’s not all. Being a germinated version of brown rice, it is softer while chewing. Also, it has a nuttier texture. 

It also has several health benefits, which caught my attention. It is known to improve our cognitive functions, and it also acts as an anti-diabetic. With this rice, I have also been able to control my cholesterol levels, thanks to its antioxidant content. 

GABA rice is a little on the pricier side, but it really is all worth it. And I also learned how to make GABA rice at home. All you have to do is rinse the brown rice and soak it in water overnight. You need to change the water when you start noticing a slight smell. Keep the rice soaked into the water until the grains plump up and you can see sprouts coming out from the grins. 

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Once made, you can simply cook it like you cook white rice. It does not take a lot of time. 

#4 — Haigamai

This is highly nutritious rice that has its bran removed but has germ intact. It is extremely easy to digest this rice, which is why it is highly recommended for those with digestive problems. The taste and flavor of Haigamai rice are somewhat between that of white rice and brown rice. It has a slightly nutty and chewy texture and is beige in color.

#5 — Buzukimai

This rice goes through a milling process where the germ and hull are removed from brown rice. In this, you can control the process by specifying how much germ and hull do you want to be removed. 

The milling of rice happens in-house at rice stores and supermarkets. I love how you can customize the milling process to cater to your taste, preference, and liking. 

#6 — Musenmai

Musenmai rice was introduced for the first time in Japan about 15 years ago. This type of rice goes through a special process of shaving off the skin bran without any use of chemicals, additives, or water. It is because of this reason that you do not need to rinse the rice before cooking, the way you need to rinse normal white rice. 

It is extremely easy to prepare Musenmai rice for cooking, which is why I find it extremely convenient for my busy schedule. Also, it makes me feel proud that I am taking care of the environment as well by using this rice. Why? It is because the cloudy water that we get after rinsing rice is a pollutant. This water seeps into rivers, lakes, and oceans leading to an overabundance of nutrients for algae. It can also choke off plants and animals. 

Although Musenmai rice costs a little more than normal white rice, it is really worth it. It saves you time, is easy to cook, and keeps the environment safe. 

#7 — Zakkoku/Kokumotsu Gohan

This is not exactly a variety of rice, rather it is a mixture of different grains, seeds, and beans that are cooked with rice. By using this, you are able to fulfill your body’s need for nutrients and fiber without having to eat brown rice. 

The blend may contain Amaranth, Azuki beans, black soybeans, mung beans, millet, rolled barley, quinoa, and black rice. You also do not necessarily need to buy the blend from the market. You can make your own mixture at home using all these ingredients that are easily available in supermarkets. 

#8 — Mochigome

This is a glutinous variety of rice that is used to make Mochi as well as other rice dishes. It is not the type of rice that you would want to bring out on the table every day. Rather, it is brought out on special occasions

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This type of rice is extremely sticky in texture and is steamed. It is not boiled like white rice. 

Different Types of Japanese Rice: FAQs

Is Japanese rice the same as sticky rice?

In the west, people often use the terms “Japanese rice” and “sticky rice” interchangeably. This is because of their sticky texture. However, in reality, these two are not the same. Sticky rice means the Japanese glutinous or sweet rice. Although Japanese rice has the same sticky qualities as compared to other types of rice, it is not the same as sticky rice.

Why is Japanese rice sticky in texture?

Is Japanese rice the same as sticky rice?
In the west, people often use the terms “Japanese rice” and “sticky rice” interchangeably. This is because of their sticky texture. However, in reality, these two are not the same. Sticky rice means the Japanese glutinous or sweet rice. Although Japanese rice has the same sticky qualities as compared to other types of rice, it is not the same as sticky rice.

What type of rice do Japanese use?

Japanese people eat mostly white rice, and seek the type that is soft and has a sweet aroma. In Japan, there is a special name for rice with these characteristics – Goku-mai which literally means “the best rice”. The other type of rice is called Akita-mai which literally means “the rice from the north”.

How many varieties of rice are there in Japan?

There are three main types of Japanese rice: Akita Oryza, Koshihikari and Tamanishiki . Arai, a Japanese agricultural scientist, developed the Akita Oryza in the Akita region of northern Japan. Koshihikari is grown in both the Koshi region of Japan and in California. Tamanishiki is grown in the Gifu region of Japan.

The Rice Addiction!

It would not be wrong to say that I am an absolute rice addict. Every single meal of mine includes a bowl of rice, without which, I cannot feel full. I love the different varieties of Japanese rice, which are so distinct and full of flavors. 

There is rice for every mood and every occasion. I hope you found my rice journey extremely informative, and you can now no longer wait to grab some of these types. 

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