Rice for Japanese people is not just a soul food but..
In Japan, rice is a necessary part of the meal and this habit started thousands of years ago.
According to the Japanese oldest historical record called Kojiki（古事記)*, the Sun Goddess Amaterasu-omikami（天照大御神) said “look after people with this grain” to Niniginonomikoto who was appointed to descend on the earth to rule where Japan is.
The grain the Goddess handed to him was the rice.
So, the rice has been treated as a very special thing and that philosophy can be seen in several traditions.
For example, one of the most cherished annual rituals emperor has been conducting since 7th century, is Niiname-sai（新嘗祭) – an expression of celebration and appreciation of abundance.
His majesty dedicates freshly harvest rice to gods and eat it in a special way (The ritual has never been shown to public).
The gesture represents sharing abundance with god, and declaration to make the country as peaceful as where gods are.
I remember my grandmother used to tell me not to leave any grain of rice in the bowl, as there is a god in each one of them.
Probably our habit of saying “Itadaki masu” before the meal, and “gochiso sama deshita” after meal naturally educate children to appreciate the meal.
(I found it difficult to translate those words in English.. say Itadaki masu means “I humbly receive this food”. and gochiso sama deshita means thank you for the foods. It is similar to the prayer that Christian people do but in Japan, people say these words regardless the religion. )
When you say it, we can automatically picture all the blessing as well as people’s efforts from caring, harvesting, packing, selling, buying and cooking…
Not only as food resource, rice also played very an important roll in Japan between 17 and 19 centuries.
It was actually a base of the society – equivalent with money in modern days.
Farmers tax was paid by rice, and power of daimyo(大名) – a governor of his area- was measured by rice harvest quantity called “goku (石)”.
1 goku = approx. 150kg which feed one person for a year.
If daimyo performs well at war or in other situation, Shogun would increase his goku as a reward.
The more goku they have the more responsibilities and duties they had to take. Unless they had more than 30,000 goku, they were allowed to have their castle, but they also had to supply 200 penal servitude per 10,000 goku to the central government (Edo bakufu) if required.
(30,000 goku is approximately valued 81 million US dallors)
Japan had currency and gold since 8th century but why did they chose rice for their base economy nearly 1000 years?
Because rice can’t be kept forever like money. It has to be consumed within a couple of years.
Their philosophy “work hard, and profit needs to go back to the society” ruled Japan which comes from Kojiki.
Japan’s first emperor (believed to be assumed the throne in B.C.660) is a grandson of NiniginoMikoto mentioned earlier. (Japan has the oldest continuous hereditary monarchy in the world)
Even though the emperor has been Japan’s highest authority, his Majesty never control the country. Instead, call people “my big treasures-大御宝（おおみたから）” and gave power to run the area to governors (in old days Daimyo & Shogun, modern days politicians).
Therefore, Daimyo or government wouldn’t use their power improperly, and just tried to take responsibilities to look after emperor’s treasures. The highest respect to the emperor naturally leaded them to share the same value which, wealth and assets didn’t belong to them but to the people.
Japan was run by such co-creational way, until capitalism & globalism took over.
*Kojiki is not taught at school in Japan, and most people think it is only a myth stories. However, there has been a movement for re-studying it and some people found that is actually a record telling us how our country or earth got formed. (Truth is there but the stories are written in the old language and have duel meaning and layers. So it gives broad angle for understanding like a bible)
It’s a day that believed to be hundreds of times harvest can be received from a grain of seed. In another word, it is one of the best days to start something.