The Japan Times
July 27, 1999

8th century enjoyed 15 rice strains

FUKUSHIMA (Kyodo) Evidence has been discovered that indicates various kinds of rice were systematically produced in Japan as early as the eighth century, a historian disclosed Monday.

Minami Hirakawa, a professor at the National Museum of Japanese History, said Monday that narrow wooden tablets dating back to the Nara Period (710-794) and the Heian Period (794-1192) bear the names of 15 different kinds of rice.

The tablets, unearthed across Japan but most in Fukushima Prefecture, are believed to have been used as tags for sacks of rice seeds, he said.

The names of the rice written on the tablets include "Akoshi" and "Shiroine," which also appear in a book on agriculture dating from the Edo Period (1603-1867).

On the back of each tablet is a date. Each type of rice was matched with one particular day, suggesting that farmers planted different kinds of rice at intervals, Hirakawa said.