88 Souls in Rice

When I was a kid, my grandma would often sternly say, “Eat every single grain of rice in your bowl. Don’t leave any of them.” I would look into my rice bowl and see two or three grains stuck to the sides.

It was difficult to pick up a grain of rice with chopsticks when I was little. I also didn’t care. I just wanted to finish my meal and watch TV.

I also hated to have my rice bowl checked by grandma. One day I had to ask. “What’s the matter with leaving one grain of rice, grandma?”

“One grain of rice has 88 souls inside. If you leave even one, you’ll lose your vision.”  Then she started writing the character for “rice” in the air with her finger.

“Look at the word. You can see the hidden character 88.”

Kanji for rice

Can you see the hidden message?

I thought that was an interesting story but was old enough to know she was bluffing. I simply replied, “Okay” and quickly cleaned my rice bowl so I could start watching TV. She also didn’t explain about what the “soul” was and I didn’t bother to ask.

After that I still didn’t care about finishing to the last grain of rice. I hadn’t lost my vision but by the time I was 10, my sight became poor and I had to have glasses. After that I changed my habit but it was too late.

Around the same time, my brother also needed glasses for the first time. “Oh, Hitoshi! It’s because I didn’t eat all my rice!”

My brother explained what I hadn’t understood before. There are 88 processes for farmers to produce rice. That’s why the character for rice can be read as 88. We shouldn’t waste even one grain because it is so complex to produce. The farmers also deserve our thanks for their hard work by us eating every last grain served.

13 thoughts on “88 Souls in Rice

  1. Pingback: Life goes in circles: we’re moving! | Hilary's Global Café

  2. Reblogged this on Japan Can(ada) Mix and commented:
    This is the second reblog in a series showcasing my hubby’s posts from his site Gozumezu – Sharing Japanese Mysteries.

    Every time I eat a bowl of rice, I remember when Hitoshi and I first met. He told me to finish every last grain in my bowl or I’d lose my sight.

    Now when I tease Hitoshi about leaving grains in his own bowl, he tells me his eyesight is already bad.

    This post tells two versions of the story about why we should not leave even one lonely rice grain sticking to the side of a rice bowl.

    What about you? Did you grow up with special stories about food, how to eat, manners or the like?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I never leave any grain in my rice bowl. My parents told me ‘you’ll go blind if you leave some’. By the way, I have nominated your blog for the Infinity Dreams Award. It would be great if you can post your response to my questions. Cheers 🙂


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