|Planting rice during the Soma Tambo Art Project.|
If there is one thing that is worth experiencing in Japan, it is planting rice by hand. There is nothing so exciting, exhilarating or wonderful as stepping into a rice field, seedlings in hand, and setting them in the soft, silty soil. I know I'm a farmer and all that, but rice, it's planting, harvest, eating, and by-products are integral to Japanese culture. A staple part of the Japanese diet, nuka (the bran from polishing rice) is used to ferment vegetables for pickles and help feed the soil of rice fields. Momigara (rice hulls) makes an excellent mulch for fields or compost ingredient. Wara (rice straw) is an important source of silica for rice fields, is part of the traditional process for making natto, and is another excellent mulch for fields as well as a material for weaving.
Most farmers don't plant by hand any more, but for events like the Tambo Art Projects in Chiba and Fukushima, it is a chance to glimpse, however briefly, the way rural communities used to work. It is also a chance to get dirty, eat good food in the company of excellent folks, and explore parts of the country that don't make it into travel guides.
There is still time to register for and sink your toes in the mud in Chiba this weekend!