Product Review

The Best Japanese Rice Cookers From Hi-Tech Like an R2 Unit to Dim-Witted Like a Battle Droid

Main featured image courtesy of Mitsubishi Electric, it is of their NJ-AW109-B.

Japanese rice cookers with fuzzy logic and all sorts of techno-wizardry do not seem too far off from a BB-8 or an R2 unit, although if you have ever experienced a Japanese toilet, this should not be a surprise (that jet of water from the bidet hitting your sphincter is more of a surprise).

Do you need an Astromech Droid or a Fuzzy Logic level rice cooker? Also, what the hell is an Astromech or Fuzzy Logic?! Well, we are about to find that out, meaning you and me, because I seriously only vaguely know. If you thought I would know you would be wrong, and after I heard one respected writer with a Japanese name mispronounce a basic Japanese word, I knew he must not be any better from the get-go.

Do You Need a High Tech Japanese Rice Cooker on Par with an R2 Unit or Dim-Witted Like a Battle Droid? Let’s find out, along with a detailed product comparisons.

Want a quick read? Scroll on through and read the summaries denoted by the rice cooker icon.
Photo Description: a Zojirushi rice cooker with the top lid popped open. You can see the orangish LCD panel with all the buttons in English.
Oh my, a freshly cooked pot of cooked rice is more magical than when you’re abusing an apple pie. Image courtesy of Zojirushi.

Why Bother Reading this Post

The vast majority of the “top” and “best” lists you find online are moronic because all they do is list every product available on Amazon because they are an Amazon Affiliate. It is the one reason why this site is one of, if not the largest English language site for Japanese food and culture in the world. It’s because I am putting out content that I want to know, along with the products not being solely off of Amazon.

The TLDR (Japanese rice cooker pricing):
1). Your basic rice cooker with no bells and whistles will range from $35 to $60 although with 2). rice warming capabilities and fuzzy logic for optimum cooking, expect to pay $100-$300. 3). Beyond that are charcoal pots which range from $600-$1000+

The Japanese Rice Cooker Basics

  • Basic Japanese electric rice cookers start at $35.
  • Mitsubishi has one of the most high-end rice cookers that will cost you $700 to over $1k USD.
  • Basic preparation: measure, wash, and add water and rice to rice cooker, press the desired cooking preset, and you’re good (they all automatically manage the cooking temperatures and turn off when done cooking).
  • Cooking and warming: Not only do these cookers cook the rice, but many of them keep the rice warm for extended periods of time (upwards of 12-24 hours although reviews by consumers and myself all know you can go days in the warmer).
  • Cooking capacities (consumer grade). 3, 5.5-6, to 10 cups.
  • Alternative uses: not only can you cook various grains, but some rice cookers allow you to steam with a special steaming tray (fish to vegetables).
  • Zojirushi is one of the only brands that seems to be almost exclusively made in Japan.
  • Top US market medium-grain and Japanese short-grain rice brands: Botan Calrose, Kokuho Rose, Nishiki, Shirakiku, Tamaki, Tamanishiki.

Japanese rice cookers require just a push of a button to cook rice.

Well, you still have to wash, measure, and add water.

What Are the Top Japanese Rice Cooker Brands

Kicking things off, I wanted to know who all the major Japanese players are (in alphabetical order).

Photo Description: a short of the Zojirushi rice cookers shot from above. The oblong rice cookers have the front third with buttons and LCD panel.
The way Zojirushi is going with their rice cooker product line-up, I am expecting an AI version next (a rice cooker in the future may be my robot overlord or companion). Image courtesy of Zojirushi.

Out of them all, it appears Zojirushi is the most dominant brand/player, and you can find the brand at Kohls, Williams Sonoma, Bed Bath & Beyond, Crate & Barrel, and they are also the brand you will see at most SoCal Japanese stores.

The others would be Mitsubishi, Panasonic/National, and Tiger.
  • Iris Ohyama, irisohyama.co.jp (wiki), is a Japanese consumer plastic manufacturer with a plant in Stockton, CA. The company develops various home appliances such as air conditioners, washers, refrigerators, to rice cookers.
  • Koizumi, koizumiseiki.jp, the company looks to produce beauty appliances such as hair dryers, but they also do kitchen, air conditioning/heater towers, to audio products.
  • Mitsubishi, mitsubishielectric.com/en (wiki), Toshiba, Mitsubishi, and Panasonic are very large companies with several product divisions. So if you drive a Mitsubishi Evo, you might not know they also sell a $1,000+ rice cooker that is part of the Mitsubishi Group (Mitsubishi Electric an Mitsubishi Heavy Industries).
  • Panasonic, Panasonic.com (wiki), I still have my National rice cooker which was Panasonic’s home appliance division that got replaced with the Panasonic brand. Under the Panasonic brand, you have all of Panasonics massive resources in battery technology, plasma and LCD, digital cameras, to laptops.
  • Siroca, siroca.co.jp, well, I was debating if I should have this company and brand listed, but I did it because they have a unique, nicely designed (iF Design Award 2020, Discipline Product), but unfortunately expensive product. They also do not even bother trying to cater to the U.S. market, so all of their marketing collateral is in Japanese.
  • Tiger, tiger-corporation-us.com (wiki), another major leading rice cooker company, but Tiger also provided the thermos bottle technology used in space experiments, which also had to withstand the impact of the small re-entry capsule. If you think that is a great marketing opportunity except most Japanese companies don’t do marketing, you would be wrong in this case with Tiger, they’re a cool company (click the link).
  • Toshiba, Toshiba-lifestyle.com/us (wiki), a mega company (or in corporate speak, a multinational conglomerate) that specializes in semiconductors, hard disk drives, consumer electronics, medical equipment, to home appliances.
  • Yamazen, (amazon/reuters), you may be familiar with this brand because they produce takoyaki grills. If not, they do rice cookers too, and that is all you need to know.
  • Zojirushi, zojirushi.com (wiki), the dominant leader of rice cookers is also a multinational company with a branch in South Korea. Their subsidiary companies are in Taiwan, China, Hong Kong, and the United States.

This article is turning out to be way bigger than I initially thought it was going to be, so I decided to cut out a lot of smaller appliance brands. Except what did I expect when it is about the Japanese and cooking rice.

If You Are Basic, Start Here

I have a semi-high tech Zojirushi, and I have a basic National rice cooker, my battle droid (now under the Panasonic brand). Unfortunately, the Zojirushi’s buttons are in kana, and I suck at reading hiragana, and my kanji is non-existent. The Zojirushi product involves a lot of random button pushing, which often feels like me pushing the red or green/blue buttons on Darth Vader’s battle armor (I’m sure the red one activates his armors in suit bidet).

The $35 National/Panasonic rice cooker that I have has served me well, and even Uncle Ben could use some Japanese know-how when cooking rice.

A push of a button and Uncle Ben will feel like family.
Photo Description: the iconic look of a basic rice cooker (Zojirushi).
This style of rice cooker ($47.99) is so commonplace in any Asian household (yea, all, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Thai, etc.) although if you are non-Asian with one or about to buy one, welcome to the inner circle. Image courtesy of Zojirushi.
BRANDPRICEMODEL/DESCRIPTION
Panasonic$35$38.45 SR-G06FGL, 3-cup, glass lid, measuring cup and rice scoop
Zojirushi$42-$57 NHS-06/NHS-10, 3 to 6-cup, stainless steel, non-sticker steaming tray
Prices and availability are subject to change.

The Tech Hyped by Japanese Rice Cooker Brands

These are all consumer products (not specifically commercial grade) and the tech they hype to market their products, the price range, and the benefits.

Recommending or having a long list of “the Best Japanese Rice Cookers” is silly because it all depends on if you are one person, a family, or a person who rice every morning (cooker/warmer). So, I recommend you pick any rice cooker in the Zojirushi product line, like the NS-TSC10 for about $150.

I have both, my cheap Panasonic/National and a Zojirushi (yea, I’m that Asian, with two cookers).
Photo Description: a Zojirushi rice cooker has a metallic finish in darker colors that range from a dark grey to a bronze color. the Semi-rectangular cooker with curves and integrated handle.
Zojirushi NS-TSC10 5-1/2-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer, 1.0-Liter
THE TECHBENEFITSPRICE RANGE
Fuzzy Logic (marketed under neuro)According to Zojirushi, it allows the rice cooker to ‘think’ for itself and make fine adjustments to temperature and heating time to cook perfect rice every time. That is the benefit, but Fuzzy Logic itself was proposed by a UC Berkeley professor, Lotfi Zadeh in 1965/1973. I could throw out binary, or boolean, but the way Ivestopedia explains it, Fuzzy Logic attempts to solve problems with an open, imprecise spectrum of data and heuristics that make it possible to obtain and array of accurate conclusions (that’s the easy explanation).$100+/- range
Microcomputer (marketed as micom)According to Panasonic, the microcomputer and advanced Fuzzy Logic continually controls and regulates heat for precise cooking and tasty results (I don’t know about you, but it just sounds like Fuzzy Logic – I also cross referenced with Tiger).$100-$200+/- range
Induction Heating (marketed as IH)Tigers IH has an exclusive 3 layer metal inner pot with ceramic coating which makes it easy to cook rice every time. Tiger does it through an alternating electric current that precisely heats up the entire inner pot via a magnetic field. An additional heating plate on the bottom of the Tiger unit also heats up the inner pot. While Zojirushi says they have 3 heating elements. Both Tiger and Zojirushi claim that the benefit is ‘flawless rice every time.’$200 – $300 range
99.9% Inner Charcoal to an Earthenware PotThe big daddy rice cooker is by Mitsubishi Electric. This mega conglomerate produces an induction heating (IH) rice cooker with a 99.9% charcoal pot aka the NJ-AW109-B (5.5 cup Kamado). Also, if you care, yes it is made in the land of the rising sun.$610 – $1,000+ range
Photo Description: a picture of the stainless steel Tiger JNP-S rice cooker.
Pictured, the Tiger JNP-S ($130-149 range). Growing up, I’m not sure if my family had this brand, but we had a similar looking model that fed me throughout my adolescents when my parents were out working. Image courtesy of Tiger.

Now What the Hell is Fuzzy Logic (Explained by HowStuffWorks.com)

Fuzzy and logic, and what does it mean? Well, if I explained that, I would be poaching from somebody else who put the time and effort in to research and write the article. Since I can not stand that (especially, all you recipe thieves), I will direct you to a great article by Jessika Toothman on HowStuffWorks.com.

I do not know how they monetize HowStuffWorks.com, but I would highly suggest you support the site by checking out the links because they have a thoroughly written and cited article. Respect to Jessika.

100 or 200 Volt

I know you just want to stick it in, and in most cases you can although be aware of the different voltages. Most electronics and appliances can handle variable voltage (like a laptop), but a curling iron may not get as hot in Japan, as it would in the United States. Except that is in most cases not a factor because of the below.

Japanese rice cookers are manufactured for use in the designated region they are sold in (so you do not have to worry about this unless you leave your region of sale).

Well, I had a bout of stupid, and I did not realize why I even added this section till I emailed Zojirushi about the voltage requirements. In my head, I somehow thought/assumed these products would be JDM (car terminology), or a ‘Japanese domestic product.’ Well, that was moronic because Zojirushi ‘America’ has a U.S. presence with a website, great customer service (Jasmine), and “all Zojirushi America products, including all of our rice cookers, are manufactured for use in the US or Canada only, and are powered by 120 volts.

  • The United States uses 110-120V and Japan uses 100V/60Hz. (of course there are instances where we Americans use 240V and Japan uses 200V, most often it is with commercial applications). As a comparison, Europe uses 220-240V/50Hz.
  • Via Zojirushi America: “Due to the voltage difference, we do not recommend using Zojirushi America products outside of the US or Canada. We also do not recommend using foreign models designed for use with a different voltage in the US or Canada. Due to the voltage difference, even if a voltage transformer is used, the electronic components of the unit may still get damaged.”
Photo Description: a black pot of raw Japanese small-grain rice is being poured out.
According to Brides.com, “The Celts, mighty warriors, were also an agronomist culture who tossed rice, millet, and other grains to appease spirits and ask for blessing and fertility for the couple.” Image by (damn it, via Flickr, but I will find the person).

Now That You Have Your Rice Cooker, Here is the Rice

Top U.S. market medium-grain and short-grain Japanese California rice brands are (keep in mind the pricing may be exponentially higher due to the time this post was posted for a 15lb./240oz bag):

If you have the money, and you want the best Japanese rice (also the most popular in Japan), buy the Koshihikari varietal from either 3 brands listed above. 2nd choice is the Hitomebore, but if you are on a budget either Nishiki or Kokuho Rose are good choices.

BRAND / VARIETALDESCRIPTIONPRICE
Botan Calrose,
Calrose
A Japanese American medium-grain rice brand out of California (the ‘Cal’ in ‘Calrose’ may have given that away).$18(20lb) – $23
Heirloom Kokuho Rose (Koda Farms), KR55A Japanese American California medium grain rice brand that I always buy, but if you compare them to Calrose, they will smack you upside your head if you think it is the same as the above product. According to the Koda Farms site, they offer up the KR55 which is like a race horse (more comparable with the below product) vs. the donkey above. This is also the quintessential Japanese American brand in every household.$33 – $68
Nishiki (JFC), ‘New Variety,’ like Kokuho and M401If I’m not buying the above, I’m buying Nishiki, another California grown medium grain brand I like because of the packaging and pricing. Although, why are you listening to me, and in JFC’s own words, they tout ‘sushi experts agree that Nishiki is their number one choice.’$19 – $29
Shirakiku (Wismettac), KoshihikariA lot more expensive compared to what I typically buy although it is a step above (some may say the “king of rice”) the previous medium-grain brands. This Shirakiku short-grain Koshihikari rice product is grown in California.$41 – $54
Tamaki (Tamaki Rice Corporation), Koshihikari Once again, another California grown Koshihikari product, but this is like the Nissan GT-R of rice because of the bag. The bag utilizes ‘a nitrogen flush and sealed package’ (the GT-R has nitrogen filled tires). Another major difference is that they are a Japanese owned and operated company.$51 – $56 to even $81
Tamanishiki (JFC), Koshihikari and Yume Gokochi “Super Premium” (their words), along with “all natural, raised in California” is a short-grain Japanese rice. Like Nishiki, this product is also distributed by one of the countries largest food distributors.$40 – $46

For more extensive information on short and medium-grain rice, my blog post The Best Japanese Rice/Sushi Rice Brands and What You Need to Prepare It will help to put some rice in your belly.

Where to Buy (Not Found on a Jawa Sandcrawler or Here)

Ahhhhhhh yea, this is where most sites try to make their money, but I am not one of those fools. I am only foolishly hoping for more of you to contribute to my beer fund with the link on the right if you are on a desktop. If you’re on a mobile device, I’m asked out because it doesn’t always show up on mobile which sucks for me because I make nothing off of these businesses.

I didn’t forget, and here is your answer on what an Astromech droid does “Astromech droids are a series of versatile utility robots generally used for the maintenance and repair of starships and related technology.”

StarWars.com

So, since vendors and producers don’t push digital/content marketing, I won’t bother providing a specific ‘where to buy,’ although I have included only a handful of affiliate links where I may make a commissions off of any products purchased at no cost to you. I decided not to provide a comprehensive list because many of you have proficient Googling abilities (although, if you had a C-3PO protocol droid, you could search for a rice cooker in six million forms of communication, yes, even Bocce).

Now Do You Need a High Tech Rice Cooker

Yes and no, like life, the answer is never abstract unless somebody in a horror movie asks you to split up to investigate a sound they heard. In that case, the answer is “no,” and always send them while you hold down the fort on the couch.

If you end up in a slasher movie, might I suggest adding some Japanese knives to your kitchen.

Do we need a high-tech doorbell, refrigerator, stove, to an electric suitcase on wheels? No, but it depends on how much you can utilize the technology. If you are the type who struggles with your smartphone, you probably shouldn’t go down this path because we are not at the point where we can ask our rice cooker to shut down the trash compactor (yea, another Star Wars reference).

Rice cooker icons created by itim2101 – Flaticon

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