Three of the biggest selling varieties of rice in Japan are Sasanishiki, Akitakomachi and, perhaps most popular of all, Koshihikari which accounts for almost 40% of domestic rice production. The latter, short to medium grain with a sticky consistency and sweet, nutty flavour, is grown all over Japan (with its taste supposedly varying from region to region) as well as parts of Australia and America. Akitakomachi is also a popular choice for sushi and onigiri, with short, plump, sticky grains which retain their shape easily when moulded.
Medium-grain Calrose rice (and the similar Nishiki variety) is most common in California, while the plump Yume-Nishiki variety is regarded as the best of the European japonica rice offerings and is cultivated in Northern Italy. Arborio, one of the most famous varieties of rice grown in Italy, is a form of japonica rice and could at a push serve as Japanese rice – although this is not recommended by most Japanese chefs!