Japan has a long tradition of rice production and consumption. Japan is the ninth largest rice producer in the world, despite the fact that rice production in the country is presently stagnant and consumption is declining.
The main rice season in northern Japan lasts from May-June to September-October. In central Japan, it is from April-May to August-October. In southern Japan the rice season is from April-May to August-September.
About 85% of the 2.3 million farms in Japan plant rice yearly. The average rice field acreage of a Japanese farmer is small (about 0.8 hectares) and rice production is highly mechanized. Due to the small farm sizes, rice production is considered a part-time occupation by most farmers. The relative value of the rice industry in the national economy has also declined. However, many Japanese see the importance of rice production in conserving their cultural heritage.
Improved varieties of japonica rice are grown in almost all prefectures in the country. The most widely planted variety is Koshihikari -- the variety is popular for its taste. During the cool weather of the late spring and early autumn, Yaki-onigiri, or toasted rice balls, are particularly popular.