Rice has become an increasingly popular ingredient in cosmetics and beverages as people eat less of what used to be Japan’s main staple.

In June 2012, Kose Provision Co. launched lotions and creams containing extracts made by fermenting and maturing rice.

The affiliate of major cosmetics maker Kose Corp. claims the cosmetics in the Maihada line are effective in moisturizing skin.

The lineup, available only by mail order, has gradually become popular and lured more than 100,000 subscribers to the online shop, Kose Provision officials said.

The officials said the members include defectors from European and U.S. cosmetics brands, believing the Maihada series made from rice must be safer and better for their skin.

“With more and more consumers pursuing safe cosmetics, we sought to develop unique products made from Japanese materials, which we assumed no rivals would think of,” said Yosuke Takahashi, an official in charge of product planning at Kose Provision.

Takahashi said the company has received inquiries from abroad about the Maihada series in English and Chinese.

In May this year, meanwhile, Kirin Beverage Co. released a sugar-free tea made 100 percent from domestic rice.

By steaming and roasting rice, the tea tastes slightly sweet and has the flavor of roasted rice. Since it is free of caffeine and sugar, Nippon Komecha is being drunken by children and people before going to bed, the beverage giant said.

The tea is the first 100 percent pure rice soft drink, according to Momoko Azuma, a Kirin Beverage official who developed the product.

“Since it has a strong rice flavor, some consumers have told us that they use the beverage when making bread or as soup stock,” Azuma said.

In Japan, rice consumption has been diminishing over the years because of the shrinking population and the steady Westernization of the Japanese diet.

A recent survey by the Internal Affairs and Communications Ministry said that single households spent an average ¥10,367 on rice a year, lower than the ¥13,022 spent on bread and even lower than the ¥13,018 spent on dietary supplements.

Against this backdrop, the Prince Park Tower Tokyo hotel in Tokyo’s Minato Ward has organized an event to promote rice consumption.

At the event in early November, about 30 women learned the correct way to wash and boil rice and tasted five different rice brands.

The women kept throwing questions at the instructor, such as “What kind of water will you recommend when washing rice?” or “How should I preserve rice?”

The participants also enjoyed a buffet of salads and desserts made from rice.

“I often have bread for breakfast, but am now interested in eating the rice brands I especially enjoyed here,” said one of the attendees, a 27-year-old female civil servant said.

“We hope our hotel can serve as a source of information to help people realize the greatness of rice once again,” a member of the hotel staff said.

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