Ita-Rice Proves Huge Success

Ero Ita-Rice – Aoi Nishimata

Several months ago we reported on the introduction of what could be called “ita-rice” –  bags of rice decorated with a moe illustration by well-known female eroge artist 西又葵 / Aoi Nishimata (Shuffle!, Final Approach, etc.)

This unique approach to selling rice has since turned into a huge marketing coup for the small town of Ugomachi (Akita Prefecture), with reportedly 2 entire years’ worth of sales of rice being sold in only 1 month.

Sales of the ita-rice began in September 2008, after Nishimata was commissioned to make an illustration to grace packages of the regional variety of rice, Akitakomachi.

The result was this image of a moe, rice-clutching woman in a kimono:



Since the innovative marketing plan was begun, visits to the JA-Ugo (the distribution center for the local rice farmers) website have grown from an average of 5 hits a day to over 5,000 daily visits.

Sales of the rice, which is mostly done through mail order, reached over 2,500 individual orders in the first month of sale, totaling 30 tons worth of the 5kg and 10kg packages.

The primary buyers of the rice are reported as being men in their 20s and 30s, with appreciative comments such as “This made me buy my first rice cooker!” being e-mailed to JA-Ugo.

The bizarre idea was reportedly hatched in 2007, when a 23-year old, self professed otaku visited his hometown of Ugomachi. Speaking to a branch manager of a local bank (an acquaintance of his father), he suggested, “Why don’t you use a bishoujo illustration?”

The popularity of the Ugomachi ita-rice seems to not have gone unnoticed, as similar marketing schemes have surfaced.

Aoi Nishimata has also been hired to illustrate  packages of strawberries, shown below:


The box, captioned “Ugoya Ichigo-chan”, contains around 15 – 20 strawberries and sells for just under ¥1,900. Sales of the strawberries have also been quite successful.

In what could be considered a natural (for otaku) progression of this trend, a doujin circle has announced plans to sell packages of rice illustrated with a character from the Touhou Project doujin game series at a Touhou-only event in 2009. I believe the appropriate name for this would be “doujinshi rice.”


This is certainly not the first time otaku marketing power has had such a large impact on an otherwise unrelated market, as the famous stories of Lucky Star pilgrims flocking to the real-life Washinomiya Shrine (Kagami and Tsukasa’s family temple) to pay homage to the Lucky Star girls have shown.

It will indeed be interesting to see what effect the success of ita-food will have in the future, and what other sort of goods can receive the “ita” treatment, besides the obvious example of cars.

Sources: Asahi and Itai News.

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    Avatar of Icy-nee-san
    Comment by Icy-nee-san
    11:28 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Holy crap more of a reason to buy/eat rice!!

    Comment by Spoony Bard
    11:45 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Gah, I wish they had those illustrations on the food here in America..

    Comment by onitake
    02:44 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    i think i'm gonna recommend the local asia shop to order large quantities of this. bet they'll sell well!

    Comment by kenjiharima
    00:29 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    The rice is more important than the art. Food people return to reality once in awhile.

    Avatar of Bokusatsu Tenshi
    Comment by XSportSeeker
    21:27 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Considering Otakus (like me) are willing to pay high prices for beautiful/cute illustrations alone, it's no wonder some otakus in Japan are willing to choose rice with moe packaging.

    Otakus probably don't care much about the quality of the rice they eat anyways... so a nice illustration on the package is a good enough differential.

    It's something like maid-cafes.... the coffee and tea served on those might be very crappy, but the "service" is what really matters. A switch of purpose.

    Comment by Anonymous
    22:05 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    The loli strawberry is cute, I'd buy it.

    Comment by Anonymous
    12:30 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'm tempted to soil that bag of rice

    Someone stop me!

    Comment by EcureuilMatrix
    14:03 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    ...I think I'd buy some, if only for the weird factor.

    Touhou rice? Goodness gracious what next?

    Avatar of alex1_phang3
    Comment by alex1_phang3
    12:21 24/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    I'd buy it XD, and the touhou one s well.

    I think the next would be shoes/underwear? XD

    Comment by Anonymous
    13:06 16/07/2010 # ! Neutral (0)

    rice or ero.
    so without ero, the rice won't sell well?
    OH wait. we are talking about otaku, not the housewife.

    >__>' everyone's comment is neutral.

    Avatar of metatron
    Comment by metatron
    10:34 21/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    and who said being an otaku is useless?

    this proves that otaku-related things is a powerful marketing tool

    Avatar of asianprostitute1500
    Comment by asianprostitute1500
    09:17 21/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    This is the first time rice has made me this horney.

    Comment by Anonymous
    23:06 20/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    UN rations please

    Avatar of takuya13
    Comment by takuya13
    21:16 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    =D should print horo on the front of those bags hahaha

    Avatar of Chrouya
    Comment by Chrouya
    20:52 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Oh w00t, that Komachi pic is excellent. Do want that rice-bag.

    Avatar of Jade
    Comment by Jade
    17:27 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    moe sells on anything and everything...
    pens, papers, nail clippers, toothpick...etc
    people should have noticed this long long time ago XD

    Comment by Freeter
    17:23 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    They'd better not use those rice bags as dakimakura...

    Comment by Anonymous
    Comment by ipood
    17:45 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    OF COURSE! Why didn't I think of that!

    Comment by BuggyBY
    16:16 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    And who can blame the buyers :) Beautiful illustrations. I'd be happy to have an empty rice bag like that adorning my wall.

    Avatar of Quen
    Comment by Quen
    16:48 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Interestingly, while I was researching this I came across some comments of concern that the rice would simply be thrown away.

    It seems that e-mails sent back to JA-Ugo about the taste of the rice and the rice-cooker comment mentioned above quelled some of those worries.

    Avatar of yaku
    Comment by yaku
    17:56 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    I doubt buyers would throw the rice, especially if they're otaku. Everybody knows otaku cut down on food expenses to buy other stuff, making your own rice is one of the best ways to keep a low budget. They can just store the rise in another container and clean the bag, nothing to it.

    Avatar of lerrymaru
    Comment by maru
    16:43 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    LOL doujin rice... I'd hit that

    Comment by ipood
    17:44 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    ZUN bitching about commercialisation but allowing people to make touhou rice, bread, keychains, etc.? I fail to understand this man.

    I'm also pretty astounded by the popularity of the rice. Female personification of objects must really be a lot more popular than I thought, stretching far beyond mecha-musume and Operating Systems.

    Comment by kuromitsu
    19:09 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    On the one hand - wow, wtf people, it's just RICE.

    On the other hand - if I were in Japan you bet I'd be all over the Hetalia pasta sauce.

    Comment by Anon
    19:13 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    I've never been much of an Aoi Nishimata fan myself so I doubt I'd buy any of it.

    Avatar of Aoshi_88
    Comment by Aoshi
    18:14 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    What about sticking an image of Strike Witches' Hartmann on some chocolate from Belgium and selling it in Germany.

    How's THAT for marketing eh!?

    Comment by Yuun
    18:40 19/12/2008 # ! Neutral (0)

    Good Plan indeed! Hmmm... all these is but something that I cant enjoy in my God Forsaken Country... sigh~~~ Sux to be in islamic country.

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