Product

The Best Japanese Rice Cooker Brands: Hi-Tech Like an R2 Unit to Dim-Witted Like a Battle Droid

Originally posted on Nov 5th, ’21. Updated on August 10th, ’22. Main featured image courtesy of Zojirushi.

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 high-tech Japanese toilet, this should not be a surprise (that jet of water from the bidet hitting your sphincter is more of a surprise).

On top of not knowing which rice cooker brands are Japanese, you might be wondering if you need an Astromech Droid or a Fuzzy Logic level rice cooker. Also, what the hell is an Astromech or Fuzzy Logic?! Well, time to find out.

FIVE PARTS:
A. Price range (1. basic, 2. mid-tier, to 3. high-end).
B. The basics about Japanese rice cookers.
C. ONLY the top Japanese rice cooker brands.
D. Japanese rice cooker technology.
E. Ease of operation.

Want a quick read? Scroll on through and read the summaries denoted by the rice cooker icons.
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 rice is almost as magical as the feeling after a day of surfing and taking off your wetsuit to jump into bed. Image courtesy of Zojirushi.

Disclosure: I only recommend products I would use myself and all opinions expressed here are my own. This post may contain affiliate links that at no additional cost to you, I may earn a small commission.

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Japanese Rice Cooker Price Ranges

Japanese Rice and Multi-role Cookers Price Ranges:
1). Your basic rice cooker heats the rice from the bottom with no bells and whistles will range
from $35 to $60.
2). With fuzzy logic/micom and induction heating for optimum cooking and rice warming capabilities,
expect to pay $80-$348.
3). Beyond that, advanced fuzzy logic with AI, along with going induction, a pressure cooker, or a precision machined (for a precise seal) graphite cast-iron cooker
(*$150) $525-711+

Many rice cookers are not just for cooking rice, and I have also included one *non-Japanese multi-role product for comparison sake. A product by Instant that most of you have heard about, especially their Instant Pot product line.

Why bother to continue to read this post on Japanese rice cookers

The vast majority of the “top” and “best” lists you find online are moronically biased because all they do is list every product available on Amazon because they are an Amazon Affiliate.

That bias is the one reason why this site is one of, if not the largest US-based sites for Japanese food and culture in the world. It is partially because I am putting out content that I want to know, which includes products not solely sold on Amazon, but at a cost (I make no money from the vendors I support).

So as of August 1, 2022, I have decided to only list the 3 vendors versus providing a comprehensive list of links to every and all vendors. Also, if you want to find some obscure vendor, many of you have proficient Googling abilities, or if you had a C-3PO protocol droid, you could search for a rice cooker in six million forms of communication, yes, even Bocce.

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The Japanese rice (and multi-) cooker basics

  • What does a “Japanese rice cooker” mean: a Japanese owned and operated company (other lists will say reheating a schnitzel in a microwave makes a microwave German).
  • Basic Japanese electric rice cookers start at $35.
  • Basic preparation: measure, wash, and add water and rice to rice cooker, press the desired cooking preset, and you’re good. They will all automatically manage the cooking temperatures and turn off when done cooking.
  • The “cup” designation is not the same as a US Cup: the cups listed below are approximately 3/4 US standard cup.
  • 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, more than just rice: not only can you cook various grains, but some rice cookers allow you to steam with a special steaming tray (fish to vegetables). For uses not requiring any special add-ons, you can do jambalaya, cakes, non-rice grains (oatmeal to quinoa), beans, and nut bread (here is a list of 8 other uses and their recipes).
  • Zojirushi is one of the only brands that seemed to be almost exclusively made in Japan, but that is not true. Based on my research, I could not confirm the specifics, but it seems for domestic sales, it is made in Japan. For export, some products are made in China and possibly throughout Asia (to me, this is not a big issue because it depends on who is managing over the manufacturing process. In this case, a Japanese company – they even state this “The same manufacturing system and quality control are strictly enforced at all our factories worldwide to ensure that the products are manufactured to the same high standard that is expected of all products bearing the Zojirushi name.”). I also said “some” because SF-based Williams Sonoma explicitly says “Made in Japan.” TIP: above the “start/reheat” button, if the product is “made in Japan,” it will be prominently labeled above the button or the front of the display panel.
  • The Top Japanese and Japanese American brands for the US market of medium-grain and short-grain rice are: Botan Calrose, Kokuho Rose, Nishiki, Shirakiku, Tamaki, Tamanishiki. For a full review of which brands of rice to buy, you can read my dedicated blog post on Japanese rice.
  • Japanese rice cooker shapes: oblong is the most common with the old school stuff being cylindrical. The more modern designs tend to have a squarish design.
  • For anybody in Colorado: Q21: Can I use a Zojirushi rice cooker at higher altitudes? A: All Zojirushi rice cookers are tested to function at an altitude of up to 5,000 feet above sea level. Pressure rice cookers are also not designed to cook at altitudes higher than 5,000 feet, but can cook the rice better at high altitudes (below 5,000 feet), compared to non-pressurized rice cookers. FYI: Colorado is the mile high city (5,280 ft).

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

Well, you still have to wash, measure, and add water.
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What are the top Japanese rice cooker brands (not Chinese or Korean)

Kicking things off, I wanted to know who all the major Japanese rice cooker players are (in alphabetical order). Other lists struggle to do this, and they ching chong it up by mixing it all up as though it is all the same.

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 (I expect this rice cooker in the future to be my robot overlord or companion, hoping for the latter). Image courtesy of Zojirushi.

Out of them all, it appears Zojirushi is the most dominant brand/player and #1. 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 top brands are 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 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.

Cuckoo gets thrown in as a Japanese rice cooker brand, but Cuckoo is not a Japanese brand and it is a South Korean company. The company began 40 years ago as an OEM supplier for large companies like LG, Philips, and Panasonic

I personally like Korean products because they are usually nicely designed (I am sucker for design) and Korean build quality is no joke.

If you are basic, start here

I have a semi-high tech Zojirushi and a basic National rice cooker, my “battle droid” (now under the Panasonic brand), which I love for its simplicity.

Fortunately, for you, if you want basic, there is ONLY one button you have to learn to push.

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 ONLY ONE 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 are about to buy one, welcome to the inner circle. Image courtesy of Zojirushi.

BASIC: The little rice cooker that could (this rice cooker epitomizes “I think I can” cook rice and be affordable).

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.
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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, and their benefits, along with the price range.

Photo Description: a picture of the stainless steel Tiger JNP-S rice cooker.
Pictured, Tiger JNP-S ($130-149 range), and the Zojirushi iteration in White: NS-RPC10FJ ($138); Grey: NS-RPC10HM ($138). Growing up, I’m not sure which brand my family had, but we had a similar looking model that fed me throughout my adolescents when my parents were out working. So yea, I have a fondness for this design. Image courtesy of Tiger.

We had this style of Japanese rice cooker for DECADES, and I wonder where it went because I highly doubt it broke.

THE TECHFEATURE/BENEFITSPRICE RANGE
Fuzzy Logic (marketed under neuro)According to Zojirushi, fuzzy logic 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 how you are interpreting this as, but it just sounds the same as Fuzzy Logic).$80-
$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 – $348 range
Precision
Machined
Cast Iron

(Musui)
Musui (in Japanese it means “waterless”) cook, sear, steam-roast, braise, and precision cook—from sous-vide to perfect rice—all in one clean design. The Musui enameled cast iron pot features our signature precision seal, meticulously hand-machined to fit at less than 0.01 mm of variance. This precision seal locks in moisture and nutrients while condensing the natural flavors of your ingredients.$330
Pressure
Cooker
Pressurized Cooking and Steaming: Promotes gelatinization and produces sticky and plump rice Automatically selects from 3 pressure levels according to the menu selected Utilizes 4 different pressure settings to perfect variety of textures Applies pressure at the end during steaming to burn off excess moisture for best cooking results$525-$711+
The list is a mixture electronics and manufacturing or material science capabilities but it is not comprehensive.

Why do Japanese rice cookers cost more?

You can look at your driveway, especially if you drive a Toyota, Lexus, Honda, and almost any other Japanese nameplate, because you are paying more for quality and reliability. Consumers expect it from Japanese companies or the “made in Japan” label.

As of 2022, the top 5 most reliable car brands are (*via CarMax):

  1. Toyota (Japan)
  2. Honda (Japan)
  3. Kia (Korea)
  4. Lexus (Japan)
  5. Acura (Japan)

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.

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 eats rice every morning (cooker/warmer). So for the medium price range or a semi-fancy rice cooker, I recommend the Zojirushi line of product such as the NS-TSC10($150-$209).

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.
Yes, this is the droid most of you have been looking for. Why and how did I come to that conclusion? It is a top seller so it was determined by its sales.

MID-TIER: At this price point, it’s those little things (features) that make life all that much better.

BRANDPRICEMODEL/DESCRIPTION
Tiger$80-$100TIGER JBV-A10U, 5.5-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker with Food Steamer Basket, White. Syncro-cooking function “tacook” makes it possible to cook main dish and rice at the same time.
Toshiba$115-$150TRCS01, 6 Cups Uncooked (3L) with Fuzzy Logic and One-Touch Cooking, White. Industry leading 3D cooking technology and intelligent 6-step cooking process. The steam valve and inner nonstick pot can preserve the steam and heat for perfect fluffy rice every time.
Zojirushi$150$209NS-TSC10/18, 5-1/2-Cup to 10-Cup (Uncooked) Micom Rice Cooker and Warmer, 1.0/1.8-Liter. Utilizing computerized “fuzzy logic” technology, this cooker senses how your rice is cooking and makes adjustments to time and temperature to create fluffy, delicious rice every time. Made in China.
Zojirushi$342-348NP-HCC10/18, The Induction Heating System Rice Cooker & Warmer uses high-tech Induction Heating (IH) technology to heat the inner cooking pan. Because of this special heating method, the rice cooker is able to make precise temperature adjustments to cook exceptional rice. Made in Japan.
Prices and availability are subject to change (a lot).

Zojirushi pot finishes and materials

All Zojirushi pots are: Our nonstick coating is made using PTFE, or polytetrafluoroethylene, a polymer that is applied in a two-step process with a primer and a topcoat. It is nonreactive, inert, ultra-smooth, hydrophobic, and resistant to abrasions, corrosion, and heat.

Photo Description: the Toshiba TRCS01 that is designed similarly like the Zojirushi products but in WHITE (they even have the handle).
The Toshiba TRCS01: Why do they all look like each other and what is up with the handles? I found out (it’s a cultural thing: it’s convenient and safe to move the Rice Cooker from the counter top to the table without the fear of burning yourself).

Majority of the inner pots for Japanese rice cookers come with a non-stick coating (the high-end Zojirushi has a platinum-infused nonstick inner cooking pan that helps rice cook sweeter). Vermicular, on the other hand has a graphite cast-iron pot that is precision-machined by hand and made in Japan. 

Vermicular’s hand-machined pot and lid are fit to less than 0.01 mm of a variance.
Photo Description: the combo product by Vermicular, graphite cast-iron pot (musui) with their Kamado cooker.
Made in/crafted in Japan translates to a fanatical and meticulous attention to detail/quality (except it will cost you, the consumer).

HIGH-END: At this price point, you are like “I am so much better than everybody else,” and this is how I flex (with a partner that matches my awesomeness in the form of a rice cooker).

BRANDPRICEMODEL/DESCRIPTION
Instant
(Not a
Japanese
brand)
$150Instant Pot® Pro™ 6-quart Multi-Use Pressure Cooker (10 in 1): The next generation of Instant Pot with even faster pre-heating, gentle steam release, and new Favorite programs. Made in China.
Zojirushi
Made in Japan
$525NP-NWC10/18, Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker & Warmer: Zojirushi’s top-of-the-line Pressure Induction Heating Rice Cooker & Warmer uses pressurized cooking and AI (Artificial Intelligence) to cook perfect rice. This product also specifically states that it is made in Japan.
Zojirushi
Made in Japan
$700-
$711
NW-JEC10BA, Pressure Induction Heating (IH) Rice Cooker & Warmer, 5.5-Cup, Made in Japan. Advanced fuzzy logic technology with AI (Artificial Intelligence): AI technology “learns” and adjusts the cooking cycle to get perfect results.
Vermicular
Made in Japan
$700+
(800+

Ships
from
Japan)
Musui–Kamado, cast iron induction cooker (in sea salt white color): A precision-machined cast iron pot ($330/Musui) + Three-dimensional induction stove ($400/Kamado). The precision seal of our Japanese cast iron, perfect heat distribution from three-dimensional induction, and precision temp control unite to help you create an array of masterfully crafted dishes with ease.
Daaaamnnnn, Instant is killing it with their pricing.

Going down the rabbit hole: I had to know if the Vermicular brand utilizes Vermicular graphite cast iron or compacted graphite (CG). From what I can tell, and what is stated on the Vermicular website, it is a proprietary variation of it because on their website, they say “at 2700°F, our proprietary mix of vermicular graphite iron and 13 other metals are melted and poured into sand molds.

The enamel coated musui graphite cast iron pot can be purchased separately from the heating element (Kamodo)

Vermicular is often compared to the French brand Le Creuset which is known for their enameled cast iron.

“The final step in manufacturing, the Musui is evenly coated three times with enamel. This step has two important attributes that are unique to Vermicular—it helps distribute heat and cook ingredients from their core, while our proprietary glass coating helps improve durability so the Musui can be passed down for generations to come. With the safety of our employees and users as our utmost concern, we never use any toxic materials like cadmium to coat our cookware.”

– Vermicular
Photo Description: the Made in China Instant brand and Instant Pot product pro in black.
NOT a Japanese brand (Chinese Canadians started the company, but they sold out to a Private Equity firm), but I had to include them for comparison sake because they are killing it with their price/value (just not sure with quality).
Photo Description: the top of the line Zojirushi NW-JEC10BA Pressure Induction Heating cooker in black.
Instant Pot Pro (Made in China) vs. Zojirushi NW-JEC10BA (made in Japan).
Photo Description: section divider, section E

If you are wondering how hard it is to operate a Japanese or Zojirushi rice cooker (ease of use), do not worry

Unfortunately, the Zojirushi I have was a Japanese model, so all of my buttons are in kana (Japanese written characters/script).

There is an “8 best list of Japanese rice cookers that you can buy from Japan,” but are the buttons and display in English? (nope). Also, is it configured to work in North America or the region you live in? (buy one and let me know).

What exactly is the point of that content (oh, site traffic).

I suck at reading hiragana, and my kanji is non-existent, which resulted in a lot of random button pushing. Somehow, that is also how I feel about Rian Johnson, the director of the Last Jedi, and his knowledge of the red or green/blue buttons on Darth Vader’s battle armor. It would be non-existent (he would expect it to activate his armors in suit bidet).

You do not have to worry about that with any Zojirushi model intended for the US or North American market. Along with Zojirushi’s support including instruction manuals in English, French, Japanese, Traditional Chinese, Korean, and Vietnamese (I cannot say the same for other brands not intended for sale in the US).

Do you have to worry about 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 the voltage unless you leave your region of sale.

Typically you will see a disclaimer such as “this product is intended for use in the United States and Canada, and is built to United States electrical standards.”

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.”

Now that you have the best rice cooker for you, read my full blog post on the best Japanese rice

The top medium-grain and short-grain Japanese style of rice sold in the United States are all grown in California.

Japanese rice is either short or medium-grain rice, and I have a dedicated post on the Best Japanese Rice/Sushi Rice Brands and What You Need to Prepare It. This article will help to put some rice in your belly.

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, 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).

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

Rice cooker icons created by itim2101 – Flaticon

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