Akita prefecture officials handed out 9,000 rice balls outside JR Yurakucho Station in Tokyo to promote Akita Komachi, but the prefecture’s famous strain lost out because packaging identified the rice used as Koshihikari, Akita Komachi’s biggest competitor for dominance in the Japanese rice market. In fact, Akita Komachi and Koshihikari brands stand out as two of Japan’s most well-known and best-loved rice in Japan.
“It was the producer’s mistake, but it was unfortunate this had to happen during our promotional campaign,” an Akita Prefectural Government spokesman said.
Rice processing company Zen-Noh Pearl Rice East Japan Corp. packaged the rice balls on behalf of the prefectural government.
“We would like to visit Akita prefecture and apologize as quickly as possible,” a company spokesman said.
Akita officials said handing out the Akita Komachi rice balls was part of a prefectural promotion campaign in Tokyo, and aimed at using the staple’s strong brand recognition to advertise the prefecture.
Akita commissioned Zen-Noh Pearl Rice to make the rice balls used in the campaign. Zen-Noh Pearl Rice, a major rice ball manufacturer, focuses mainly on using Koshihikari, a strain from Niigata prefecture.
Zen-Noh Pearl Rice had begun production of rice balls on Saturday using Koshihikari before it turned to getting out the rice balls Akita prefecture had commissioned it to make. Despite changing the rice being used on the production line, the company neglected to alter the labeling on the packaging of the rice balls, which ended up having Akita Komachi rice being labeled as Koshihikari.
Akita officials handing out the rice balls realized the error and distributed the goods to passers-byes while telling them that the rice came from Akita prefecture and was not Koshihikari as labeled.