Rice Art in Japan

In spring farmers around the world plant crops. For most it is a straight-forward operation of tilling and seeding. Then they work the fields all summer long before harvest. In Japan, one town took an unusual approach to rice planting. Look at this series of fairly standard images – then watch what happens as the crop matures.

The images are so clear and precise, you’d be one of many to think they are hoaxes. Yet the pictures have been verified – and even Hoax Slayer confirms their authenticity. The practice of rice paddy art started in the town of Inakadate in  Aomori prefecture.

“For nearly 20 years, the town has prided itself as home to Japan’s finest rice crop art, which is created by carefully arranging different colors of rice plants in the field.” Pink Tentacle

Farmers creating the huge displays use no ink or dyeA closer inspection shows the images are created using different varieties of rice that grow in different colours. In the paddy, the careful placement of the thousands of rice plants in the paddy fields creates the image.  As summer progresses and the plants shoot up, the detailed artwork begins to emerge.

The farmers create the murals by planting little purple and yellow-leafed Kodaimai rice along with their local green-leafed Tsugaru, a Roman variety, to create the colored patterns in the time between planting and harvesting in September. From ground level, the designs are invisible. Viewers have to climb nearby towers erected by the village office to get a glimpse of the work.

Rice-paddy art was started in Inakadate in 1993 as a local revitalization project, an idea that grew from meetings of the village committees. The different varieties of rice plants grow alongside each other to create the masterpieces. In the first nine years, the village office workers and local farmers grew a simple design of Mount Iwaki every year. But their ideas grew more complicated and attracted more attention.

Today plans acre created by computer and each “pixel” of coloured rice is precisely planned. The plants are then carefully placed to create stunning murals that reflect the best of old and new. Modern day Thomas the Tank in a field next to an ancient warrior. Coverage of these artworks has been extensive and widespread – The Guardian in the UK featured an overview of how they are planted.

The murals in Inakadate cover 15,000 square meters of paddy fields. Today there are more murals in other prefectures. The images created are truly amazing.

The last image is of fictional warrior Naoe Kanetsugu and his wife, Osen, whose lives are featured on the television series ‘Tenchijin.’ They appear in fields in the town of Yonezawa in the Yamagata prefecture of Japan.

Visiting the area is best in the summer months of June or July – when the images are at their peak. Until then watch to see the images appear in this time-lapse video.

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