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Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima <#05> Arriving in Fukushima “Rice”

Hidetoshi Nakata travels around Fukushima <#05> Arriving in Fukushima “Rice”

Tenei-mura in Iwase county is located in the center of Fukushima and is known for rice production. Tenei Rice Cultivation Research Group was founded 10 years ago by volunteers from the area’s rice farms. They have dedicated themselves to organic and other special cultivation methods in order to improve the taste and quality of their rice. They are the only group to have received the gold award at the International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation for 9 consecutive years.
*International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation is a competition of the taste of new rice sponsored by the Rice Taste Evaluation Association and has been held since 2000. It became an International competition in 2010 and is held in high esteem both domestically and internationally.

Only 20% can be considered Tenei Rice

Nakata visited Tenei in the fall when the fields were reaping with golden rice plants. He visited the rice fields with Yoshio Madarame, chairman of the Tenei Rice Cultivation Research Group.
“Is this Koshihikari? How much are you able to harvest?”
On learning that the average harvest is 8-10 bales per field, he continued with his questions.
“Organic cultivation tends to decrease the harvest, so do you get about 6 bales?”
Madarame is surprised that Nakata is so knowledgeable. Nakata smiled as he commented.
“I’ve always really liked rice, and I studied so that I can `rice taste`.”
Members of the group commented that Nakata may be more knowledgeable than rice farmers, and everyone broke out in a smile.
Tenei Rice Cultivation Research Group was established in 2008, with the liberalization of the rice trade, Madarame told us.

“It all began with rice farmers coming together with a shared concern for a dramatic decline in rice prices. We wanted to produce the most delicious rice in Japan in order to survive.”
Since then they have tried various ways to cultivate rice using organic and other special methods. In particular, “Kanpo Kankyo Noho Tenei Rice” uses “kanpo” or Chinese medicine as organic fertilizer, and paper mulch to minimize weeds. No chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides are used, taking extra care and time to cultivate the rice.
“It takes twice as much effort to grow rice without any chemicals. And we only get about 60% of the crops. But the difference is clear when you eat the rice, so it’s all worth it.”

Winning Gold as a representative of Fukushima

n the other hand, the rice needs to be evaluated by a third party in order to be widely accepted. With this in mind, the Research Group has continued entering their rice in the world’s largest rice competition, International Contest on Rice Taste Evaluation, receiving the gold award for nine consecutive years. This record is one of the reasons Tenei Rice is considered the world’s best rice.

There were times they thought of giving up farming altogether after the negative impact of the Great East Japan Earthquake, but they persevered, using zeolite to cleanse the soil and water. Their efforts paid off, and no radioactive chemicals were detected in the rice that was harvested the following fall. They also extended their record for consecutive gold awards in the competition.

Unfortunately, they weren’t able to extend their record to 10 consecutive years as a result of the lack of rain last year, receiving an Honorable Mention istead. They hope to win their 10th gold award this year and contribute to improving the reputation of Fukushima produce. Nakata shares his idea in his desire to encourage the people of Tenei.
“You should add 10 stars to your packaging when you win your 10th gold award!”
The results of the competition will be announced at the end of November, and everyone is waiting in anticipation.