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The Asahi Shimbun
Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a daily column that runs on Page 1 of The Asahi Shimbun.
September 14, 2022 at 14:33 JST
Bags of “shinmai” new rice are on sale in Iga, Mie Prefecture, in September 2021. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)
Author Kozaburo Arashiyama, a die-hard rice lover, objects to the current usage of the expression “shinmai” (literally “new rice”) in denoting a novice.
In the past, he argues in his essay, a novice was referred to as “shinmae”–the “shin” meaning “new” and the “mae” being short for “maekake” (apron). In other words, a novice was someone who wore a new apron.
But shinmae transitioned into shinmai over time, and Arashiyama is annoyed that this is “disrespectful toward new rice.”
He also gives the thumbs-down to the idiom “hiyameshi-gui” (literally, “eating cold rice”), which denotes someone who is being slighted or given the cold shoulder.
“Why, ‘omusubi’ (rice balls) are perfectly good when cold, and chilled ‘chazuke’ (rice served in a bowl of chilled tea) is an exquisitely refreshing summertime meal,” Arashiyama declares in his essay titled “Gohan-tsu” (Connoisseur of rice).
I could not agree more with him. Nowadays, too, there are developments that make me want to cheer for rice more than ever.
The rising price of wheat around the world is slowly pushing up the price of bread here in Japan.
To prevent any further rise, the government has decided to freeze the prices of imported wheat. The situation is worrying.
For Japan, however, rice is an option.
The steep increase in the price of wheat is due to the war in Ukraine hampering exports. Given this, it is only natural for anyone to be concerned about securing food in an emergency. For Japan, this cannot be discussed without rice being in the equation.
Kazuhito Yamashita, a former farm ministry official and currently research director at the Canon Institute for Global Studies, proposes rice exports from Japan.
In his book “Kokumin no Tame no Shoku to No no Jugyo” (Lessons on food and farming for the Japanese people), Yamashita recommends that the government switch its rice production policy from controlled production to output increase and export rice during times of peace.
Should ocean shipping become completely disrupted, he continues, the rice meant for export should be domestically consumed. And since this arrangement differs from stockpiling, it does not cost anything, he argues.
This plan may pose various issues that need ironing out, but I believe it is well worth considering.
As for this year’s rice crop situation, most regions are said to be reporting levels similar to last year’s. Grateful for this good news, I eagerly await the arrival of new rice.
–The Asahi Shimbun, Sept. 14
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Vox Populi, Vox Dei is a popular daily column that takes up a wide range of topics, including culture, arts and social trends and developments. Written by veteran Asahi Shimbun writers, the column provides useful perspectives on and insights into contemporary Japan and its culture.
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