Japan's ban on imported rice is now on the negotiating table. U.S. policymakers cite this ban as a symbol of Japan's abuse of free trade. Yet the U.S. position contains a critical paradox: While the United States expends political capital pushing Japan to liberalize imports, rice-producing nations in Southeast Asia stand to gain as much--if not more--through greater access to the Japanese market. Meanwhile, Japanese policymakers find it difficult to continue arguing that rice should remain off-limits in trade talks. Japan's position also contains a critical paradox: Even though Japan claims a strong attachment to rice, its consumption is actually declining. Understanding the origins and implications of these two paradoxes requires an in-depth look at the "rice triangle" formed by three major players: the United States, Japan, and East Asia.