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Japan likes to think of the food it produces as being the highest-quality in the world, and that goes double for rice. As such, many bags of domestically grown rice are decorated with iconic Japanese imagery, such as a crane, the rising sun, or Mt. Fuji.

But in today’s modern age, there’s no surer visual shorthand for Japan than cute anime girls, which is exactly what you’ll find on these bags of rice from Yamagata Prefecture.

As one of Japan’s top rice-growing regions, Yamagata already has plenty of cachet when it comes to the nation’s staple grain. This promotional push, though, aims to put a face, or actually three, on the product.

Meet the girls of RiCes, which is oddly enough pronounced like “recess.” Billed as Yamagata’s unofficial rice idols, the team consists of Tsuyahime Uzen, Haenuki Shonai, and Hitomebore Miyagi, all of whom have a first name that’s also a strain of rice grown in Yamagata.

The youngest of the group, Tsuyahime is also its leader. Despite having a bit of a selfish streak, she’s full of pep and energy, setting the pace for the unit.

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The earnest and hardworking Haenuki used to belong to a different idol group, but has now switched over to RiCes prior to its debut, according to her provided backstory.

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Finally, Hitomebore is the calm and collected “big sister” of the group, which means, as per anime bylaws, that she’s also drawn with the most ample chest. A talented dancer and singer, Hitomebore unfortunately suffers from anemia, which seems like an odd trait for designers to choose when crafting a character to promote a low-iron, low-protein food such as rice.

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The girls will each appear as illustrations on special packages of the rice they share their name with. 2,500 yen (US$21) will get you a five-kilogram (11-pound) bag of either Haenuki Shonai Haenuki rice or Hitomebore Miyagi Hitomebore rice. Ponying up a cool 3,000 yen will get you a five-kilo bag of Tsuyahime Uzen Tsuyahime.

While critics might be tempted to call this shameless targeting of otaku, bags of rice, decorated with anime characters or not, are still a far less frivolous purchase than expensive figures or huggy pillows. And while the RiCes rices aren’t exactly budget-priced, they’re not that much more expensive than what premium types of rice usually sell for in Japan.

It’s not like RiCes producers can be entirely blamed for the idea of combining Yamagata rice with cute girls, either. “Tsuyahime” literally means “lustrious princess,” while “hitomebore” is a Japanese phrase meaning “to fall in love at first sight.” The idols’ designers are simply carrying out Yamagata rice growers’ marketing of their product to its logical conclusion, and if all this has your mouth watering, you can order your RiCes rice through Yahoo! Japan Shopping (Tsuyahime here, Haenuki here, and Hitomebore here).

Source: Otakuma via Kinisoku, At Press
Top image: RiCes official website
Insert images: At Press