'Okome no Gakko' – Educational program to foster the understanding of Rice
by Naoji 'Ozzy' Otaki, CD, Manager, Public Relations Department, Satake Corporation
It is my honour to be invited to write for Milling & Grain magazine as a guest editor, and I would like to take this opportunity to write about something other than Satake's product, 'Okome no Gakko' (literally 'Rice School'), an educational program aimed towards local children.
Rice has been grown in Japan for thousands of years. It has been considered an incredibly valuable farming product and our primary staple food. However, rice consumption in Japan has been steadily declining in recent years. Data from Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry, and Fishery shows a single Japanese person on average consumed 54.4kg of rice annually in 2016, 54 percent less than that of individuals in 1962.
One of the major reasons for this decline is that Japanese diets have changed dramatically during the rapid economic growth period following WWII. As the economy grew, more alternating carbohydrate sources became readily available, such as wheat noodles, bread, pasta, etc. This decline in rice consumption is now causing shrinkage in Japanese rice industry.
Rice production has decreased by 15 percent in the past 10 years. Not only the industry, but also the rice farming population, is decreasing and consequently resulting in deserted small farming towns.
Satake is the Japan's first manufacturer of motorised rice milling machinery, established in 1896. Although we currently manufacture processing equipment for all different grains in over 150 countries worldwide, Satake feels a strong need to support the Japanese rice industry as muc as we can.
One of the actions Satake have taken is to educate the youth. The Rice School started in August 2005 as a part of Satake's CSR program. Its main theme is Shokuiku, food education, focused on rice. During the two-hour class, historical aspect of rice as a main staple food, its biological characteristics as a plant, how it is grown and processed are topics brought raised to the children to consider.
Most of the attendees are elementary school students, age between six and 12, from surrounding areas of Satake head office located in Higashi, Hiroshima. By 2019, we have welcomed near 10,000 students to the school, making it one of the most successful youth programmes for Satake.
The school typically consists of slide presentations regarding rice farming and processing in a classroom, hands-on experiments of paddy husking and milling with laboratory equipment, discussions on the history of rice-related equipment at Satake History Museum, and demonstration of equipment at the Sorting and Processing Integrated Centre. It is designed to be a fun and educational experience for children learning the proper knowledge of rice and related subjects.
Together, with many of other CSR programs Satake offers, we hope our efforts will eventually increase the rice consumption of Japan and revitalise the industry and farming towns in the near future!