9 years ago (the last time I bought I rice cooker) I got a middle of the road Panasonic rice cooker. It was silent. The one I bought before that was silent. Every rice cooker I've never owned since the 80s was silent. All the ones my friends had when I visited their homes were silent.
So, this time I also just picked a middle of the road Panasonic rice cooker only to find out they are no longer silent.
Apparently nearly all the rice cookers are now IH (Induction Heating) and so they need a fan to circulate the air. Panasonic doesn't even make any non IH rice cookers in 2016.
Maybe my rice sensitivity is not at the Japanese level but Japanese loving their food traditions, traditionally rice was never made with IH cooking. I never had any problem making great rice in the previous generation of silent cookers.
Is this progress? The cynical side of me sees this as just a huge marketing gimmick. In other words the old rice cookers worked just fine but the companies wanted to get consumers to buy new machines so they added IH and then made a massive PR campaign to convince everyone they needed IH or their rice sucked. Now they also have pressure cooker IH on top of that as the reason to upgrade your IH cooker.
I wouldn't mind if they were silent. I also wouldn't mind if they still made non HR cookers. Checking Tiger makes 11 IH and 3 non IH. The non IH are clearly their bottom of the barrel models. Zojirushi 12 IH and 2 non IH one of which only makes a single serving. So yea, pretty much all Japanese rice cookers now make noise. 🙄