Most, if not all, tourists would probably agree that Japan has very good quality of rice – soft, round shape and gets cooked with just the right amount of moisture. But did you know what and where the best variety is within the country? Koshihikari (lit. translated “light of Koshi” – an old province within Fukui and Yamagata) was first cultivated in 1956 in an agricultural research facility in Fukui and is said to be the most popular and highly grown type of rice in Japan. It is grown in different regions but the most expensive and highest quality is that of Minami Uonuma City in Niigata.
Tokyo-goers and other big city-tourists would probably cringe at the words “most expensive” but if you happen to have free time this summer, I suggest you to visit the small city of Minami Uonuma and enjoy a food hopping adventure in its MAJI DON festival. Maji (本気) means serious and Don (丼) comes from the word donburi or rice bowl. This festival aims to promote Koshihikari and as the name suggests, it is a serious business of eating helpful servings of rice. Fifty eight restaurants in the city are participating and each store serves a different and original Koshihikari rice bowl with the average price of only ￥1,000. You would think it is already very cheap but wait until you read more.
Juen, a modest Chinese restaurant in Osaki, serves a bowl of hot and freshly cooked Koshihikari rice topped with thinly-sliced but heavily flavored beef and crisp vegetables and an accent of spicy miso paste, plus soup and garden-fresh pickles on the side – all for the price of ￥850 only. Simple and big serving – I’d say this certainly is a good bargain for the rice lovers out there.
593-6 Osaki Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
Operation Hours 11:00～13:45; 17:00～20:30
Closed on Mondays
鮨岡 Sushi Oka
For those craving of authentic Japanese sushi, you might want to take a visit to Sushi Oka first and order a Kaisendon (raw seafood rice bowl). This is no Michelin awardee like Jiro’s in Tokyo, but you can have a supreme quality of raw seafood flavor without hurting your pockets since any size of your bowl – small, medium or large will just cost you ￥800. And that already includes a light egg soup, pickles, hiyayakko (cold tofu) and mayo-based potato salad.
243 Terao Minamiuonuma, Niigata Prefecture
Operation Hours lunch, dinner
Maji Don festival is not only for the residents of Minami Uonuma but for everyone, especially for those passionate about food and Japanese rice.
So, what are you waiting for? Pack your bags and start your Maji Don adventure now!
If you wish to know more about the remaining 56 stores, please visit their official Facebook page.