Milestone-Proposal:Rice Cookers


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Docket #:2021-08

This proposal has been submitted for review.


To the proposer’s knowledge, is this achievement subject to litigation? No

Is the achievement you are proposing more than 25 years old? Yes

Is the achievement you are proposing within IEEE’s designated fields as defined by IEEE Bylaw I-104.11, namely: Engineering, Computer Sciences and Information Technology, Physical Sciences, Biological and Medical Sciences, Mathematics, Technical Communications, Education, Management, and Law and Policy. Yes

Did the achievement provide a meaningful benefit for humanity? Yes

Was it of at least regional importance? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to pay for the milestone plaque(s)? Yes

Has an IEEE Organizational Unit agreed to arrange the dedication ceremony? Yes

Has the IEEE Section in which the milestone is located agreed to take responsibility for the plaque after it is dedicated? Yes

Has the owner of the site agreed to have it designated as an IEEE Milestone? Yes


Year or range of years in which the achievement occurred:

1923 and 1955: ‘1923’ and ‘1955’ are the years in which 'Mitsubishi Electric Corporation' and 'Tokyo Shibaura Electric Co., Ltd. (currently Toshiba Corporation) collaborated with Koshinsha Co., Ltd.' both in Japan, commercialized the world's first ‘electric rice cooker’ and ‘automated electric rice cooker’, respectively.

Title of the proposed milestone:

Commercialization of Electric Rice Cookers, 1923 and 1955

Plaque citation summarizing the achievement and its significance:

The world’s first ‘electric rice cooker’ and ‘automated electric rice cooker’ were commercialized in 1923 and 1955 by the Japanese Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation collaborated with Koshinsha Co., Ltd., respectively. Each was aimed at a kitchen appliance for rice cooking, and its commercialization contributed greatly to the progress of home electrification in Japan and other East Asia countries.

In what IEEE section(s) does it reside?

Tokyo Section

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) which have agreed to sponsor the Milestone:

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) paying for milestone plaque(s):

Unit: Tokyo Section
Senior Officer Name: Yoshiaki Nakano

IEEE Organizational Unit(s) arranging the dedication ceremony:

Unit: Tokyo Section
Senior Officer Name: Yoshiaki Nakano

IEEE section(s) monitoring the plaque(s):

IEEE Section: Tokyo Section
IEEE Section Chair name: Yoshiaki Nakano

Milestone proposer(s):

Proposer name: Isao Shirakawa
Proposer email: Proposer's email masked to public

Please note: your email address and contact information will be masked on the website for privacy reasons. Only IEEE History Center Staff will be able to view the email address.

Street address(es) and GPS coordinates of the intended milestone plaque site(s):

Mitsubishi Electric Corporation (Address: 2-7-3 Marunouchi, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8310, Japan; GPS coordinates; N 35.6784426, E 139.7648084) and Toshiba Corporation (Address; 1-1-1 Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo 105-8001, Japan; GPS coordinates; N 35.6518120, E 139.7576211)

Describe briefly the intended site(s) of the milestone plaque(s). The intended site(s) must have a direct connection with the achievement (e.g. where developed, invented, tested, demonstrated, installed, or operated, etc.). A museum where a device or example of the technology is displayed, or the university where the inventor studied, are not, in themselves, sufficient connection for a milestone plaque.

Please give the address(es) of the plaque site(s) (GPS coordinates if you have them). Also please give the details of the mounting, i.e. on the outside of the building, in the ground floor entrance hall, on a plinth on the grounds, etc. If visitors to the plaque site will need to go through security, or make an appointment, please give the contact information visitors will need. The head offices of both Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation.

Are the original buildings extant?

The original buildings of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation are both extant.

Details of the plaque mounting:

The plaque will be displayed in the entrance hall of the Main Building of each of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation.

How is the site protected/secured, and in what ways is it accessible to the public?

The plaque will be fixed on the wall of the entrance hall in the Main Building of each of Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation, which can be accessible to the public with permission.

Who is the present owner of the site(s)?

Mr. Takeshi Sugiyama (President and CEO, Mitsubishi Electric Corporation) and Mr. Satoshi Tsunakawa (President and CEO, Toshiba Corporation)

What is the historical significance of the work (its technological, scientific, or social importance)?

The historical significance not only on the ‘electric rice cooker’ but also on the ‘automated electric rice cooker’ is briefed as follows.

1. Historical Background of the Commercialization of ‘Electric Rice Cooker’ and ‘Automated Electric Rice Cooker’

In the past the rice cooking used to be carried out by means of non-automated dedicated rice cooking utensils, whereas at present it is by automated electric/gas rice cookers. The world’s first ‘electric rice cooker’ [1] and ‘automated electric rice cooker’ [2] were commercialized in 1923 and 1955 by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation and Toshiba Corporation collaborated with Koshinsha Co., Ltd., respectively, both in Japan [3, 4, 5]. As for the former, its commercialization started in the year when the ‘Great Earthquake of 1923’ occurred, and it was intended for marine use [4]. On the other hand, as for the latter, it was the first commercially successful rice cooker intended for home use [3, 4, 5], and its commercialization contributed greatly to the progress of home electrification in Japan and other East Asia countries.

2. History of the Commercialization of Electric Rice Cookers

The ‘electric rice cooker’ commercialized for marine use in 1923 by Mitsubishi Electric was composed simply of an aluminum pot with a heating coil inside and an inner cooking bowl to hold rice. Since this rice cooker had no turn-off facility, it required constant monitoring during rice cooking [3]. Thus, to cope with the lack of turn-off feature, Mitsubishi Electric soon began to develop an automatic turn-off facility attached to the rice cooker so that it could be automatically turned off when the water in the outer pot boiled off. However, it took several years to realize such a turn-off feature, and it was not until in around 1930 that Mitsubishi Electric succeeded in attaching an automatic turn-off facility to the rice cooker [4].

3. History of the Commercialization of Automated Electric Rice Cookers

In 1952 a General Manager of Toshiba Corporation consulted with the President of Koshinsha Co., Ltd. about the collaboration on commercializing an ‘automated electric rice cooker’ for home use. As a result, the joint R&D (research and development) project targeted at this automated rice cooker was approved by the two companies, and it was achieved as outlined in what follows [5]:

1) In 1952 Toshiba agreed with Koshinsha on the joint R&D to commercialize an 'automated electric rice cooker' for home use in such a way that Koshinsha took on the role of its development.

2) The two companies jointly confirmed that the key point of cooking rice at home was how to turn the raw starch with a crystal structure into the ‘gelatinized starch’ whose crystal structure was decomposed by cooking.

3) As soon as Koshinsha found that in the trial cooking, there were hard rice due to insufficient cooking as well as scorched rice due to overcooking, they began to develop an effective ‘triple-chamber indirect rice cooking method’ in order to detect that boil and to turn off the switch accurately as specified.

4) Making effective use of this method, in 1955 Koshinsha managed to accomplish an automated electric rice cooker after three years’ desperate efforts.

5) By virtue of this rice cooker, Toshiba successfully placed the world’s first ‘automated electric rice cooker’ on the market by implementing a sophisticated ‘double-chamber indirect rice cooking method'.

It should be stressed here that what distinguished Toshiba’s ‘automated electric rice cooker’ from Mitsubishi Electric’s ‘electric rice cooker’ was Toshiba's introduction of a bimetallic thermostat into the rice cooker, which played a specific role as follows: Supposing that rice was placed into a cooking bowl and water into a surrounding pot, if the water in the pot boiled off, the temperature of the bowl rose rapidly, and the bimetallic thermostat then activated and automatically turned off the heater to prevent burning of the cooked rice [3, 4, 5].

Eventually, in December 1955 Toshiba anyhow embarked on a business of selling the completed 700 units of this automated rice cooker, in which, however, sales did not grow as expected. Thus, Toshiba soon proceeded to expand the sales network so desperately that a maximum monthly production of 200,000 units could be provided for the Japanese market [3]. Four years later, rice cookers became widespread in almost half of all Japanese households, and the total production volume reached 12.35 million units [3, 4, 5].

What obstacles (technical, political, geographic) needed to be overcome?

In the early development phase, electric rice cookers encountered several obstacles, which were overcome as outlined below.

1. Obstacles to the Commercialization of 'Electric Rice Cooker'

The ‘electric rice cooker’ commercialized in 1923 by Mitsubishi Electric used the simple concept of heating the rice to cook and turning off the heater when the temperature of the inner bowl rose to a certain point. At this early stage, or even in the late 1920s, electric rice cookers were used mostly on board, not at home, mainly because the home electrification was still underdeveloped in Japan. In addition, the rice cooking was influenced so greatly by variation of room temperature that under-cooked rice was often produced. Thus, in the early development phase, many makers continued to experience failures in their ongoing trial-and-error approaches [3, 4].

2. Obstacles to the Commercialization of 'Automated Electric Rice Cooker'

Toshiba’s 'double-chamber indirect rice cooking model' devised for the ‘automated electric rice cooker’ took more time for rice cooking and consumed more electricity than Mitsubishi Electric’s model for the ‘electric rice cooker’ [3]. In addition, since this electric rice cooker did not have a keep-warm feature, the cooked rice cooled down so quickly that it was often necessary to move the cooked rice to heat-insulated serving containers [3, 4, 5].

What features set this work apart from similar achievements?

The world’s first ‘electric rice cooker’ and ‘automated electric rice cooker’ had distinctive features as outlined in what follows.

1. Unique Development of 'Electric Rice Cooker'

In old times the rice cooking used to be conducted by employing non-automated dedicated rice-cooking utensils, which have an ancient history (e.g. a ceramic rice cooker dated to 1250 BC is on display in the British Museum [3]). Since the ‘electric rice cooker’ released in 1923 by Mitsubishi Electric had no automatic turn-off facility, it required constant monitoring during cooking [3]. Thus, Mitsubishi Electric was soon engaged in developing an automatic turn-off facility to be attached to this rice cooker. Eventually, it was not until in around 1930 that Mitsubishi Electric accomplished such an automatic turn-off facility attached to the rice cooker [4], as already stated. Here, It should be added that this rice cooker had such a simple structure as an aluminium pot with a heating coil inside, and that this rice cooker was intended for marine use [4], mainly because it was still difficult for home use due to the underdevelopment of home electrification at that time in Japan.

2. Rice Cookers with Automatic Turn-Off Facility

In December 1955 Toshiba started selling the completed 700 units of ‘automated electric rice cookers’ by using an elaborate ‘double-chamber indirect rice cooking method’. Although this electric rice cooker was equipped with an automatic turn-off facility, it did not yet contain a keep-warm function, and the cooked rice cooled down so quickly that it was often necessary to move the cooked rice to heat-insulated serving containers [3, 4, 5], as already stated. In addition, sales did not grow so much, mainly because electronics stores and customers were very skeptical whether or not this cooker could really cook rice well. To cope with such an undesirable situation, Toshiba endeavored to enhance the sales network and moreover to demonstrate the rice cooker in nationwide so earnestly that it began to sell explosively.

Specifically, it should be noted here that Toshiba incorporated a bimetallic thermostat into this rice cooker, which played an important role of the automatic turn-off facility in the following way: When the water in the outer pot of a rice cooker boiled off, the temperature of the cooking bowl rose rapidly, and the incorporated bimetallic thermostat then activated and automatically turned off the heater to prevent burning of the cooked rice. Eventually, Toshiba succeeded not only in producing 200,000 rice cookers per month for the Japanese market in 1956, but also in the total production volume of 12.35 million units in 1960 [3, 4, 5], as already stated.

Supporting texts and citations to establish the dates, location, and importance of the achievement: Minimum of five (5), but as many as needed to support the milestone, such as patents, contemporary newspaper articles, journal articles, or chapters in scholarly books. 'Scholarly' is defined as peer-reviewed, with references, and published. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. At least one of the references must be from a scholarly book or journal article. All supporting materials must be in English, or accompanied by an English translation.

References

[1] ‘Product history of rice cookers’; http://www.goodspress.jp/columns/67395/2/ (in Japanese).

[2] ‘Kitchen revolution: Birth story of world’s first electric rice cookers’; http://allabout.co.jp/gm/gc/292625/ (in Japanese).

[3] ‘Rice cooker’; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rice_cooker

[4] ‘Rice cooker’; http://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/炊飯器 (in Japanese).

[5] ‘Japan’s first electric rice cooker’; https://toshiba-mirai-kagakukan.jp/learn/history/ichigoki/1955cooker/index.j.htmh (in Japanese)



Appendices

References [1]. [2], [4], and [5] were written in Japanese, for which English abstracts are provided as follows.

① Reference [1]: This article briefly describes a product history of electric rice cookers developed by Mitsubishi Electric Corporation. At first, it is stressed that the world’s first electric rice cooker was developed for marine use in 1923 by Mitsubishi Electric, which was not widespread so much for home use, mainly because the home electrification had been still underdeveloped in Japan. It is also stressed that the old Japanese culture of holding the cooked rice in heat-insulated serving containers could be maintained in a different way by employing newly an electric rice cooker and warmer commercialized in 1976 by Mitsubishi Electric. Following the early history of electric rice cookers, this article steps into an introduction of several rice cookers commercialized afterwards by Mitsubishi Electric.

② Reference [2]: This article reveals a hidden story of the world’s first ‘automated electric rice cooker’ commercialized in 1955 by Toshiba Corporation. The story written here briefs the following topics:

1) The contribution of this ‘automated electric rice cooker’ to the kitchen revolution.

2) The application of the ‘double-chamber indirect rice cooking model’ to this 'automated electric rice cooker'.

3) The usage of this rice cooker: Rice was placed into a rice bowl, and water into a surrounding container. When the water in the container boiled off, the temperature of the rice bowl rose rapidly, and a thermostat then activated and automatically turned off the heater to prevent burning of the cooked rice.

This article also touches on an early series of Toshiba’s products; a rice cooker with a keep-warm facility commercialized in 1972, one with microprocessor-controlled facilities released in 1979, a higher-end IH (Induction Heating) rice cooker put on sale in 1988, etc. Finally, it is added that since 1990 Toshiba had commercialized 6~7 million units of rice cookers par year.

③ Reference [4]: The contents of this article are almost the same as those of reference [3], that is, this article provides an overview of several kinds of rice cookers on 10 pages, as outlined below:

1) Overview

2) Electric Rice Cookers

3) Gas Rice Cookers

4) Other Rice Cookers

5) Major Makers

④ Reference [5]: This article briefs a historic overview of the world’s first ‘automated electric rice cooker’ commercialized in 1955 by Toshiba. This overview consists of the following contents, each of which is written in both Japanese and English.

1) Social background of developing the world’s first ‘automated electric rice cooker’,

2) Koshinsha’s collaboration with Toshiba, starting in 1952,

3) Results attained by the joint R&D in 1952 through 1955, and

4) Success story of the ‘automated electric rice cooker’.

Supporting materials (supported formats: GIF, JPEG, PNG, PDF, DOC): All supporting materials must be in English, or if not in English, accompanied by an English translation. You must supply the texts or excerpts themselves, not just the references. For documents that are copyright-encumbered, or which you do not have rights to post, email the documents themselves to ieee-history@ieee.org. Please see the Milestone Program Guidelines for more information.


Please email a jpeg or PDF a letter in English, or with English translation, from the site owner(s) giving permission to place IEEE milestone plaque on the property, and a letter (or forwarded email) from the appropriate Section Chair supporting the Milestone application to ieee-history@ieee.org with the subject line "Attention: Milestone Administrator." Note that there are multiple texts of the letter depending on whether an IEEE organizational unit other than the section will be paying for the plaque(s).