in Japan #86:
Rice cookers─high-quality, stylish models springing up
Although life in Japan is quite westernized today, there are still several things that are not seen as often in foreign countries as they are in Japan─and one of them is the rice cooker. Of course, rice cookers are sold in many countries around the world. But in Japan, almost all households have one and even college students have one, even if they live in small, simple apartment rooms with not much furniture.
In Japan, people
used to burn coal in a furnace to cook rice, and it would
take them a lot of time and effort. So, when the first electric
and automatic rice cooker was released in 1956, it soon
became popular for its convenience. Fifty-five years later
rice cookers come in more varieties and have more functions
than ever. Even simple ones have many cooking modes other
than “normal,” such as “quick,” “porridge,” “brown rice,”
“takikomi (Japanese paella),” and so on.
The rice cooker is also considered to be one of the most safe and convenient cooking appliances, because it doesn't require a naked flame and all you have to do is press the "cook" button. So, a lot of rice cooker recipes have been invented by homemakers and cooks. You can cook daily dishes such as nimono (Japanese pot-au-feu) or stew; prepare dough for bread, pizza and pasta; and even bake cakes with rice cookers.
You can buy a basic rice cooker for as little as a few thousand yen, but some cookers with higher functions are priced at several tens of thousands of yen, or even more than 100,000 yen. Most rice cookers used to be white and round, but now there is a wide selection of designs for people to choose from─some have many color options, while others are cube-shaped. With such high-quality rice cookers now available, it's a little hard to imagine what new technology could possibly improve on rice cookers in the future. One day will we be able to eat freshly cooked rice within less than 10 minutes, maybe?