Water is an element you may naturally associate with Japan. The very long coast-line (Japan has over over 6,000 islands), the Shinto rituals associated with purification with water, and the damaging effects of tsunamis come to mind.
The planting of rice was not on my list until my current travels in Japan in May 2014. Water is everywhere as the fields are prepared for the next rice crop.
From Hokkaido in the north to Kyoto in central Japan, and no doubt further south, the seedlings are being planted in neat, straight rows. Some by hand, most though with special machines designed for the task. Millions of fine, bright green seedlings have been grown to provide this essential food staple – in a land where rice is traditionally eaten three times a day.
The area of water used to grow rice came as a surprise. Especially when you come from a country where dry-land or pivot-irrigated agriculture is the norm. This large expanse of water can have an impact on the local environment. For example, I was told that the the rice fields around Aizu-Wakamatsu (in the north-east of Honshu, the main island of Japan) dropped the minimum night temperature by several degrees in May compared to the previous month. As Japan is heading into summer, this is not the expected trend!
In around 4 months the rice fields will turn a golden colour and be ready for harvest. The water and the warmth of the sun will produce another bounty. This is a special time as nothing beats the taste of freshly harvested rice. If you get a chance you should try it some time. It is oishii (delicious).
(This is the second post sent from my iPad while travelling in Japan. The first one was on Hokkaido (see ‘Northern transitions’). You can tell that I’m still getting the hang of the WordPress App. And of taking photos out of bus windows with my smart phone!).