Niigata Prefecture, Japan’s number one rice-producing region, has accused the anime community, especially the “Girl Running Late with a Piece of Bread” trope for the decline in rice consumption in Japan.
Chief of Prefectural Food and Distribution Division Shinichi Watanabe, stated that:
In Niigata Prefecture’s analysis of why [rice consumption is dropping], we arrived at the hypothesis that manga and anime, which are deeply engrained in Japanese culture, are influencing the situation.
What we speak of is the “Girl Running Late with a Piece of Bread,” or the scenes in which a student, office lady, or salaryman who overslept runs while holding a piece of bread in their mouth. Often, the scene includes the female character falling in love as she rounds a corner.
We believe that repeated viewing of such scenes may be forming an image in viewers’ minds that ‘breakfast = bread,’ and causing them to be less likely to eat rice at breakfast.
Watanabe attributed that domestic demand for rice as main food has decreased around 100,000 tons year-on-year. The influence of the pandemic has also made it difficult for the industry.
In addition, 80% of people eat rice for dinner, but only about 50% for breakfast. The prefecture thought that breakfast had room for the rice industry to grow.
The government released a video explaining the reason: “Is it because of that one scene in anime? We wondered if there was anything in Japanese culture that explains the decline in rice. And our answer is ‘The girl who’s late running with toast in her mouth.’
To counter the crisis, the Niigata government is planning a project to create a new culture called “Girl Running Late with a Rice Ball“; replacing the bread with rice. It started on Jan 17, 2022, on “Omusubi Day”.
In order to compete against the prevailing image, Niigata will create new heroines who run with rice in their mouths instead.
The project has also recruited actress Manami Igashira to appear as a live-action Girl Running Late with a Rice Ball in the first of a planned series of video shorts.
The ad specifically points out that the “omusubi” are katsu rice balls where the rice was home-grown in Niigata Prefecture by the character’s grandfather.
The katsu (pork cutlet) is a pun, something Japan loves almost as much as anime and earnest schoolgirls, since katsu can also mean “victory” in Japanese, the video is trying to establish katsu rice balls as a good luck charm for kids taking school entrance exams.
The project will release a new video every Monday until Feb 14, 2022 to promote “Girl Running Late with a Rice Ball“.
By creating, and encouraging others to create, scenes of anime schoolgirls running to school with a musubi/onigiri (both Japanese words for rice ball) in her mouth, the prefecture aims to shift perceptions.