Last Thursday night, just outside the town of Tsukuba in Ibaraki Prefecture. We were walking along a semi-rural road just after sunset, and, not reading Japanese, I had no idea what this little kiosk was. My son Eamon said, “Well, what would a farming community like this need?” Well, there were rice fields all around us, scattered with single-family homes and small apartment buildings. But I still had no clue what I was looking at.
The large characters on the canopy say, “Kubota Clean.” What I was looking at was a personal rice mill (built by the Kubota company). People bring their winnowed household rice here, dump it in the hopper, put in some money, and this unit hulls and polishes the rice to the finely finished white grain most in Japan prefer. Not sure what the U.S. equivalent would be. A neighborhood flour mill to grind people’s wheat into flour?