Learn the special units of rice in Japan – go, hyo, etc.
I’m looking at a Japanese recipe and it says 1 go (合) of rice. What is this?
In Japan, g and kg are commonly used as units of weight.
However, for rice, special units are also used, such as go or hyo. When cooking rice, recipes use go (合). It may be helpful to remember that 1 g = 150 g = 5.29 oz when cooking rice.
In this article, I will introduce the units used for rice and why we use various units.
Units of Rice
The following units have been used in Japan since ancient times to express the amount of rice.
- 合 （go）
The unit “升（sho）” is used not only for rice but also for sake bottles (1.8 liters). And the unit “斗” is also used for oil and paint cans.
A quick guide to how much these units weigh
|Unit of rice||oz||lbs||g/kg||ml/ℓ||cc|
Note that in Japan there are measuring cups specifically for rice, with a different capacity of 180 ml (5.291 oz). A normal Japanese 1 cup is 200 ml (6.7628 oz).
Incidentally, it is said that the annual consumption of rice by the Japanese is less than one hyo per person.
Going back in time, it is said that the amount of rice consumed by one person in one year during the Edo period (1603-1868) was one koku.
Pronunciation of rice units
As those of you who are learning Japanese know, the pronunciation of numbers + units in Japanese is very difficult. This unit of rice is no exception and is also difficult to pronounce. The pronunciation of 1-10 is listed in the table below.
|Unit of rice||勺（shaku)||合（go）||升（sho）||斗（to）||俵（hyo）||1石（koku）|
How many bowls of rice?
Cooking one go of rice makes about 350g (12.346 oz) of rice. Generally, a bowl of rice is said to weigh between 150g (5.291 oz) and 180g (6.349 oz), so one go of rice is equivalent to about two bowls of cooked rice.
Other units can be summarized as follows.
|Unit of rice||Number of bowls|
Why are various units of rice used in Japan?
When you buy rice, you buy it in “kg” units such as 5kg or 10kg. But when you cook rice, you use “go” (合), such as 1 go or 2 go. It is so complicated when there are many different units of measurement. Why are various units used in Japan?
The units “shaku, go, sho, to, hyo, koku” are units that have been used in Japan for a long time. And the kilogram is an internationally used unit.
In 1959, the Measurement Law was revised to use international units suck as “kg”. This is why rice sold in stores is sold in kg.
In response to the above, rice cooker manufacturers began to use the international standard “cc” instead of “go”. Around this time, Dr. Aya Kagawa, a nutritionist and founder of Kagawa Nutrition University, decided that 1 cup in Japan is 200 cc, and rice cooker manufacturers began selling rice cookers based on the 200 cc standard instead of the 180 ml (1 go) standard.
The rice cooker also came with a special cup that measured 200 cc per cup, but consumers used the old measuring cup (180 cc per cup) to measure their rice. However, the water scale on the rice cooker is set for the 200 cc measuring cup. This means that the amount of water is too much for the amount of rice, resulting in soggy rice.
After receiving a flood of complaints, the manufacturer reverted to the “go (180 cc)” standard, which continues to this day.
Go is the most frequently used in daily life. It is good to remember how much go is.
- 1 go = 150g = 180ml(cc) = 5.291 oz = 0.331 lbs
- 1 go is equivalent to about 2 bowls of rice