Zojirushi Blog

A Pivotal Moment in Zojirushi History: The Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer

The royal blue Hanagumo rice cooker with a flower design around it and stainless trimming over a black reflective surface and a black background

Zojirushi’s long history of innovating dates back to our founding in Japan in 1918 with the manufacturing of glass-lined vacuum bottles – a breakthrough technology at the time. From that point forward, we were dedicated to creating new products and home appliances that make life more comfortable and convenient. And as Zo fans of today know, our approach to rice cooking is no exception.

The Evolution of Rice Warmth: A Historical Perspective Pre-Zojirushi

Before the advent of Zojirushi’s innovative solutions, warm rice was a luxury, often a challenge to keep fresh unless freshly cooked. People traditionally relied on “ohitsu” or straw baskets, and in the sweltering summer heat, a bamboo container called “meshi-ikaki” was essential to preserve the rice without spoilage.

The revolutionary Zojirushi elephant jar, however, changed everything. It addressed the common struggle of keeping rice warm, especially for families where late working hours were the norm. This breakthrough marked a significant shift in Japanese household convenience, setting the stage for the iconic Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer.

Rice in a wooden container with lid called ohitsu

Introducing Hanagumo: the world’s first electric rice warmer

After years of working to perfect how rice is warmed and cooled through the thoughtful design of odor-eliminating vacuum-insulated rice jars, Zojirushi turned its attention to how electricity could make extended rice warming possible, without sacrificing taste. And thus, the world’s first electric rice warmer was invented.

The Hanagumo electric rice warmer hit the market in 1970, revolutionary for its ability to keep rice to 68°C to prevent the spread of bacteria. Its name, meaning flower cloud, and floral pattern quickly became recognizable across Japan – a symbol of life in “danchi” apartment buildings, where dining rooms and kitchens are integrated.

Powering a movement in history

The Zojirushi rice warmer’s popularity boomed throughout the mid 1970s, as industrialization and urbanization made dual-income households a societal mainstay. With more married couples headed to work, technology that could deliver added convenience and reduce household chores were in high demand, and the electric rice warmer joined the ranks of vacuums, washing machines, and refrigerators as home appliances making a new way of life possible.

By making at-home food preparation easier and less time consuming for working families, the rice warmer found itself at the center of a pivotal time in history. The UN declared 1975 the International Women’s Year, and the decade that followed represented a global movement for gender equality. During this period, women across the globe pursued opportunities for academic, social and career advancement outside the home, fueled by innovation that empowered then to use their time more freely than ever before.

Thus, home appliances like the Hanagumo Electric Rice Warmer that reduced the burden of domestic labor remained in high demand during this period, and ultimately inspired Zojirushi’s next great innovation: the electric rice cooker.

Rice in traditional Japanese bowls

Becoming Japan’s leading electric kitchen appliance manufacturer

Looking back at this pivotal chapter in our history, the Hanagumo marks an important milestone. It was the debut and popularity of this groundbreaking rice warmer that earned Zojirushi its place as one of Japan’s leading electric kitchen appliance manufacturers – a position we are proud to maintain today.

Where is the Hanagumo today?

Zojirushi will never stop innovating when it comes to rice cooking, with a lineup of electric rice cookers and warmers that takes inspiration from our very first model. Does your family have a vintage Hanagumo, or a story to share about your first Zojirushi rice warmer? Share with us on social media and help us celebrate where our journey began #ZojirushiHistory

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