Japan Cool: Unique Products From Japanese Prefectures

Sagabiyori rice from Takeo City, Saga Prefecture

If you can’t go to Japan, let Japan come to you.

In the past few years, I’ve been trying to arrange a cherry blossom holiday (March-April) to Japan but each time something or other would crop up and I end up going somewhere else.

Hence I was pleased when Musings on the M49 was invited by Media Japan and the Japan Local Government Alliance to a special preview session to sample unique products from three Japanese prefectures. At least I get to see some things uniquely Japan right here in Singapore!

Held at Tomi Sushi @ Millenia Walk, the preview showcased three Japanese product and food items namely Sagabiyori rice from Takeo City in Saga Prefecture, Senshu cotton towels from Izumisano City in Osaka Prefecture, and Tsuiki aluminium spoons from TsubameSanjo City in Niigata Prefecture.

Sagabiyori Rice from Saga Prefecture

First item for us to sample was Sagabiyori Japanese rice. The short-grain rice is primarily planted and harvested in Saga Prefecture, located north of Kyushu Island in the south of Japan. Rice farming is the main industry in Saga’s fertile plains, while fishing thrives in the coastal areas.

Thanks to venue host Tomi Sushi, we got to try the Sagabiyori Japanese rice in the form of onigiri rice balls, wrapped in toasted seaweed. If you love Japanese cuisine, you will know that the Japanese rice used is often light, fluffy and sightly sticky. Sagabiyori Japanese rice is rather different – the rice grains are bigger, a tad sweeter and not that sticky.

Often eaten as a snack or a quick breakfast/lunch item in Japan, the onigiri stuffed with tuna mayo and spicy ikura (large red Japanese caviar, pictured left) were really tasty and delicious. Even without stuffing, plain onigiri made of Sagabiyori Japanese rice was very filling on its own.

The premium rice brand—granted the top ‘Special A’ ranking by the Japan Grain Inspection Association—is available in 5kg packs from $60 in Isetan and Meidi-ya.

Senshu Cotton Towels from Osaka Prefecture

Next, we were introduced to the soft-to-the-touch Senshu cotton towels, known for their high water absorbency. Truth be told, I never knew towel production was a thing in Japan! The industry started as far back as 1887 when Japanese native Enjiro Satoi, impressed by quality imported towels, decided to produce his own towels in the Senshu region in Osaka Prefecture (an hour’s train ride from Kansai International Airport).

As lots of Senshu towels were provided at the event for us to touch and feel, their softness and gentleness cannot be doubted. We were also informed that the towels do not contain any wax, glue and dyes due to Atozarashi, a process unique to the Izumisano towel-producing region. This process involves thoroughly rinsing off waste and by-products from the delicate towel fabrics with fresh underground water.

We were also encouraged to soak the Senshu towels with water to test its high water absorbency. Well, when drenched, the towel certainly absorbed well with hardly any water droplets rolling off the material’s surface (like very cheap towels do). Along with its soft texture—a key feature for me when it comes to buying face towels—the Senshu towel is a product worth considering.

Available in various colors and sizes, Senshu face towels priced from $6-$8 can be found in Takashimaya and Isetan.

Tsuiki Aluminium Spoons from Niigata Prefecture

One thing I love about Japan is that they seem to have an invention for everything in life – from the world’s first rice cooker to, er, square watermelons. Well, at this preview, we were introduced to these cool looking, aluminium “thermal conduction” ice cream spoons from TsubameSanjo City in Niigata Prefecture, a 70-minute train ride north of Tokyo.

Produced by Tsuiki in TsubameSanjo, an area renowned for the production of quality metal wares, each spoon is made from 100% aluminium. The way it works is that if you hold it for at least 10 seconds, it will conduct your body heat down to its squared-shape bowl tip, warming it up enough to slice through ice-cold desserts such as ice creams and puddings easily!

Have to confess it didn’t really worked for me at the preview as the tips of my fingers were rather cold then and I felt the ice cream given to us were kinda soft in the first place. Even if the heat bit need a bit of work to work, I love the spoon’s shiny look and its design which makes it very comfortable to hold. I did try it again at home when my hand was warmer and the spoon did slice through my hard butter easily. Also, the Tsuiki spoon definitely heats up when I used it to stir hot coffee!

Tsuiki ice cream spoons, priced from $10-$15 in various colors, are currently available exclusively at Tomi Sushi @ Millenia Walk.

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