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Hard to find, but heavenly delicious.

While we’re sure they have a soft spot for Communion wafers, the Popes of the Catholic Church have room in their diets for non-Eucharistic carbohydrates as well. And so it was that in 2005, the Pope was presented with a gift of Mikohara rice, grown in the town of Hakui in Japan’s Ishikawa Prefecture.

We haven’t had an audience at the Vatican in the time since, but we assume His Holiness enjoyed his Mikohara, which in Japan has picked up the nickname of “The Pope’s Rice.” Since we’re always on the lookout for ways to possibly improve our good standing with almighty deities, we decided to try some for ourselves, and made the trip to the farmlands of Ishikawa’s Noto Peninsula.

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However, Mikohara rice, which is grown in Hakui’s Mikohara district, is produced in rather limited quantities. The neighborhood itself isn’t that large, and the traditional farming methods used mean that only about 500 bales are harvested each fall, and last year’s crop is now almost impossible to find in supermarkets. However, we’d heard rumors that we could still get our hands on some at Miko no Sato, a shop that sells local produce.

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Unfortunately, when we arrived the staff informed us that they were all sold out of their stock for the day. Figuring this was God’s way of testing us, we returned to our hotel went to sleep, and returned the next afternoon.

And lo, our faith was rewarded with two Mikohara rice balls.

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We were somewhat uncertain as to whether we were supposed to say grace or if just the standard itadakimasu would do, but what we can say for sure is that Mikohara rice is delicious. Large-grained, fluffy, and flavorful, it’s everything you could want in a variety of rice, and tasted so good we enjoyed not only the pickled plum rice ball, but the filling-less one sprinkled with salt, as well.

▼ Each rice ball was priced at 120 yen (US$1.15)

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If you’re looking for sweeter indulgences, Miko no Sato also sells cakes and ice cream made with Mikohara rice.

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▼ Blissfully milky, and now giving us flashbacks to our last semi-religious ice cream experience

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The next crop of The Pope’s Rice is expected to be ready for harvest sometime in October. It’s once again sure to sell out quick, so keep your fingers crossed and say your prayers if you’re looking to pick up a bag.

Shop information
Miko no Sato /神子の里
Address: Ishikawa-ken, Hakui-shi, Mikohara-cho 190
Open 9 a.m.-6 p.m. (March-November), 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (December-February)

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[ Read in Japanese ]

Follow Casey on Twitter, where all this talk of holiness and cuisine has him craving some divinity cookies.

[ Read in Japanese ]