Fukushima’s new rice variety debuts as original quality breed

A new variety of high-grade rice developed by Fukushima Prefecture went on sale on Oct. 28. Called "Fuku, Warai" (literally meaning "good luck, laughter"), it was unveiled at events held the same day at the Yoshikawaya inn at the Anahara hot spring resort in Fukushima city's Iizaka district and a venue in Tokyo where a commercial publicizing the new product was also announced. Among people attending the event in Fukushima were Fukushima Gov. Masao Uchibori, Masaichi Hasegawa, deputy head of the Japan Agricultural Cooperatives' (JA) five related bodies in the prefecture, Japanese national softball team head coach Reika Utsugi and its ace pitcher Yukiko Ueno. The commercial consists of animated illustrations of a pastoral landscape and a family at a table where the rice is served, based on the package design for the new rice by illustrator Bunpei Yorifuji. Supervising production of the commercial was creative director Michihiko Yanai, hailing from the Fukushima Prefecture city of Koriyama. It was directed by Kensaku Kakimoto, who is choreographing public broadcaster NHK's Sunday historical drama series "Seiten wo Tsuke (Reach Beyond the Blue Sky)," while musician Yoshihide Otomo, who grew up in Fukushima city, composed the music. A tasting session was also held, with participants enjoying freshly cooked steaming rice. "It's packed with tastiness. Amazing," said Gov. Uchibori. "I feel the chewiness in each and every grain. Good taste!" Utsugi commented. Echoing her, Ueno said she felt "the same sort of taste and texture associated with glutinous rice from the moment I started chewing." The Japanese softball team won the first two games of the event at the Tokyo 2020 Olympics last July at prefectural Azuma stadium in Fukushima city en route to its gold medal. "The two straight victories in Fukushima gave momentum to the entire team," said Utsugi. "I also greeted my birthday during the Olympics. Fukushima is such a special place," Ueno said, looking back over the team's performance. The rice event in Tokyo was attended by Yanai, Kakimoto and Yorifuji. "Fuku, Warai" is on sale at department stores and other outlets in the prefecture and the Tokyo metropolitan region. It sells for a suggested before-tax retail price of 800 yen per kilogram. It can be grown only by those farmers who meet strict requirements, including acquisition of the central government's Good Agricultural Practice (GAP) certification. (Translated by Kyodo News)