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Best Japanese Rice Cooker

Updated on December 8, 2012

Best Japanese Rice Cookers

If you were ever in the market for a rice cooker, you might be quite familiar with the overwhelming numbers of Japanese rice cookers available. Even though there are American, European and Chinese brands, the Japanese rice cooker manufacturers seem to dominate the market with impressive selections of models, price points, heating technologies and menu options. The four best Japanese brands are: Zojirushi, Panasonic, Sanyo and Tiger.

Let's look at the strengths and weaknesses of each brand and I'll also highlight a bestseller from each.

Zojirushi

Leading the pack with cutting-edge technologies and design

Before I began researching for the best rice cooker, I wasn't aware of Zojirushi nor did I know how to even pronounce it. I had to use Google Translation to find out it was pronounced as "zo-gee-ru-shi". It didn't take me that long to realize that Zojirushi has been a key player in the household and commercial appliance market around the world.

Zojirushi has been in business since 1918. It was founded as the Ichkawa Brother's Trading Company in Osaka, Japan. In 1961, the name was changed to Zojirushi Corporation. "Zo" means "elephant" in Japanese which represents strength, intelligence and familiarity.

For over 90 years, Zojirushi has been practicing what they preach, i.e. to improve consumers lives through innovative products. Some of the product lineups are: rice cookers, water boilers, beverage dispensers and more for both residential and commercial uses. Zojirushi's products are the embodiment of cutting-edge technologies, aesthetic appeal with consumer-friendly usability.

It has an impressive array of rice cookers from the simple conventional, micom (micro-computerized chip), fuzzy logic, induction to pressurized heating. The rice cookers come in different capacity sizes and in different colors. The products are built to last and elegant enough to be displayed on the kitchen counter as industrial design "artwork".

The singular strength in Zojirushi's rice cookers is exhibited by technologies meeting user-friendly design. Zojirushi takes rice cooking to a new height in the intricate design of menu options for rice of all kinds.

Given its prominent market position, Zojirushi commands higher price in its rice cookers. Most rice cookers are priced from $50 up to $400. If you enjoy a best-in-class rice cooker, you ought to be willing to part some hard-earned cash, right?

Zojirushi NS-ZCC10 or 18 is the #1 bestseller of its league on Amazon. It comes with two capacity sizes (5.5 and 10 cups of dry rice).

With fuzzy logic embedded in the computerized chip and 10 menu options, this is a rice cooker that will serve you well no matter what types of rice you are cooking.

Not only is it rated as #1 bestseller among Zojirushi rice cookers, it's also the best rice cooker vs. other leading brands. Follow this link to find out why.

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Panasonic

Get the job done at an affordable price

At the heel of Zojirushi is Panasonic. It's safe to assume that the Panasonic's brand awareness surpasses Zojirushi's in the United States thanks to its popular consumer electronics such as televisions, cameras and camcorders.

Similar to Zojirushi, it is also headquartered in Osaka, Japan with a long history dated back to 1918 (did Zojirushi and Panasonic coordinate with their timelines?). Since the humble beginning, it has expanded into one of the largest Japanese electronic manufacturers competing with Sony, Canon and Toshiba worldwide.

Panasonic also produces non-electronic products such as rice cookers and offers home renovation services.

Panasonic's rice cookers are characterized by its multi-functionality, durability and affordable price. There are only two types of heating technologies in Panasonic rice cookers, namely, conventional and fuzzy logic. It doesn't yet have rice cookers with induction or pressurized heating.

A couple of unique features in some of the Panasonic models are in the inner cooking pot coated with Binchotan, white charcoal and the dimples in the pot. The charcoal coating is to absorb the unwanted odor from tap water and also to bring out the natural aroma and flavor in rice. The dimples in the pot help with better heat distribution. As a result, the rice gets cooked more evenly.

When I think about a Panasonic rice cooker, I think it as Mr. Functional and a multi-tasker. Some of the rice cookers are designed to cook rice, slow cook soups/stews, bake cakes and steam meats and veggies. It does the job well, but the design is uninspiring and luster-lacking.

As far as the menu options, the basic types of rice are covered, but not as refined as Zojirushi's.

To offset the lack of cutting-edge heating element, Panasonic's rice cookers are priced at mid-point from $20 to $150 (more for commercial ones) as more affordable options.

Panasonic's Bestseller

Panasonic SR-MS103/183

Following Panasonic's design philosophy, the Panasonic SR-MS103 (5 cups) or SR-MS183 (10 cups) rice cooker was the only one that competed head to head with Zojirushi in the best 10 rice cookers.

The competitive edge of this rice cooker is the versatility of performing multiple functions in one cooker.

You want to cook great rice, use it. You want to stew a pot of chilli, it will do it for you. Baking a cake in the cooker instead of heating up the power-guzzling oven, no sweat! Want to eat a healthy meal with steamed meats and vegetables, call this cooker.

By the way, it will save you about $50 for buying this rice cooker as opposed to the Zojirushi NS-ZCC cooker. Is this a no-brainer decision or what?

Sanyo

Panasonic's Twin Brother

Sanyo is another Japanese electronics company headquartered in Osaka, Japan. In 2009 and 2010, Sanyo was acquired by Panasonic through two transactions and became a subsidiary within Panasonic.

Sanyo's products target the middle of the market and there is no exception with its rice cookers.

Similar to Panasonic, Sanyo's rice cookers excel at multi-features to save money and space in the kitchen. Often you'll find Sanyo's rice cooker as a slow cooker, a steamer and as bread baker besides the primary function of making good rice. The lineup includes models with conventional heating as well as digital types.

The design and heating technologies are not the most impressive as in Zojirushi's rice cookers. But with the mid-priced range between $20 to $200, it serves as a solid rice cooker for average folks who just want to have a decent rice cooker.

Sanyo ECJ-F50S is a fuzzy logic rice cooker with 5 cups of uncooked rice. It can easily satisfy a small to mid-sized family up to 3-4 people.

With extra thick titanium-coated inner cooking pot and an easy-to-read and to operate display control panel, this rice cooker is built to last. Cooking rice in the bottom and steaming meats and veggies in the steamer, you will get yourself an entire meal in one swoop. Who has time to cook after a long day in the office? Let this Sanyo rice cooker be your personal and attentive chef.

You'll be saving $40 from buying the Zojirushi cooker. It shouldn't be that hard to find other things to buy with the money. Rice bowls and chopsticks?

Tiger Corporation

By now it has become very apparent that Osaka, Japan is the hub for major commerce. Tiger Corporation was established in 1923 in Osaka as well like the rest of the rice cooker brands mentioned earlier. Similar to its predecessors, Tiger also manufactures and markets an extensive line of consumer products such as rice cookers, rice dispensers, electric water heaters and so on.

As a brand, Tiger's unique selling point lies in the quality and value it provides to consumers. Tiger's rice cookers are very popular in Japanese households and they are gaining more recognition around the world. Surprisingly, Tiger's rice cookers are often rated better across the board than the other best Japanese brands.

Tiger's rice cookers range from conventional to digitalized. Far-infrared heating is applied in some of the Tiger's newer models. If you are familiar with how a micro-wave oven works, the infrared is another electromagnetic energy. The heat is generated through molecular vibration when energy radiates around the water and the rice in the inner cooking pot.

Comparing to conventional heating, the infrared takes less time to heat up and the heat is distributed more evenly throughout the entire inner cooking pot. In addition, the flavor is sealed with the even and faster heating, resulting in perfectly cooked and good-tasting rice.

Tiger JAG-B18U is a prime example of the far-infrared energy designed in a rice cooker. The JAG-B18U can cook up to 10 cups of dry rice, enough to feed a large family of 6 to 8 people. There is also a 5.5 cups size if it fits your needs even better.

Beautifully designed and engineered, many Tiger rice cookers last for 20 to 30 years. While many models are priced at mid-range, there are a few with higher price tags.

Final Thought

There you have it. Four solid brands, outstanding lines of rice cookers with the best heating technologies and design in the industry, how can you go wrong with choosing anyone of them?

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    • Gyra Myers profile image

      Gyra Myers 8 months ago

      I personally think the Karmin professional rice cooker is the best :)

    • profile image

      stella 8 months ago

      Karmin makes the best professional rice cooker in my opinion :)

    • profile image

      Sojourn 5 years ago

      I never knew how to pronounce Zojirushi! I've seen the brand over and over and made up my own way to say it. I love the look of their rice cookers. So advanced from the one I had when I was in college. Can't wait to have one of these for myself. Thanks!