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This is a past article published in Hiragana Times. Each Japanese paragraph is followed by its English translation or vise versa, and furigana are placed above each kanji to make Japanese study even easier. [Magazine Sample] [Subscription Page]

Tanbo Art: Gigantic Rice Paddy Artwork

[From August Issue 2010]

“Rice Paddy Art” has become popular. More recently, these events are being held in rice paddies across Japan. Rice is Japan’s staple food and grows in paddies filled with water, called “tanbo.” Rice is planted (taue) in early summer and harvested in the fall. Tanbo art uses rice paddies as giant canvases where planted rice becomes giant artwork around August.

The village where this artistry started, Inakadate-mura, Aomori Prefecture, is celebrating their event’s 18th anniversary. Initially, they used three different colored varieties of rice to create artwork of Iwaki Mountain with the phrase “Village of Rice Culture: Inakadate” in a rice paddy 54 meters long by 47 meters wide. Since then, they have increased the canvas size while also attempting more difficult artwork, such as Leonardo da VINCI’s “Mona Lisa” and KATSUSHIKA Hokusai’s “Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji.” This year, they have planted rice of five different colored varieties in a huge rice paddy 143 meters long by 104 meters wide. This summer, artwork resembling “Ushiwaka and his subordinate Benkei.” (famous historical figures) is expected to appear.

Started in 2008, the tanbo art of Gyoda City, Saitama Prefecture, is the largest in scale in the Kanto Region. The rice paddies located in the east side of “Kodaihasu no Sato” (Lotus Garden) is almost as big as the one in Inakadate-mura, which measures close to the size of the Tokyo Dome’s playing field. Four hundred and thirty-three people participated in “the Tanbo Art Rice-planting Experience Event,” which this year was held on June 6th.

Rice-planting usually starts at 10 in the morning and takes about two hours. The participants line up next to each other and plant rice by hand. In the paddies, string is used to mark 30-centimeter lengths. Then the participants move backwards from the center to the outside, following the string. Usually, one person plants one meter’s worth of rice.

This year’s pictures will include “NARITA Nagachika” (Nobou-sama) and “Oshijo” (castle), from the historical novel “Nobou’s Castle,” set in Gyoda City. The picture of Oshijo was designed by AOYAGI Kinichi, from Kawagoe City, Saitama Prefecture, who submitted it for consideration. The artwork, which is expected to appear in early August, will be visible from the park observatory. The first rice harvest is planned for October 16.

MURATA Kiyoharu, of Gyodo City’s Environmental Economic Department of Agricultural Administration, says, “It is our wish that many people will experience traditional rice-planting by hand.” The city is also interested in offering the experience to non-Japanese as an international exchange. The “Tanbo Art Rice Planting Experience Event” is held every June. The participation fee is 1,000 yen for adults and 500 yen for middle school students and younger. To thank the participants, each person will be given two kilograms of rice harvested in the fall. The observatory’s admission fee is 400 yen for adults and 200 yen for middle school students and younger. The artwork remains visible until after the second harvest is completed around November.

Inakadate-mura, Aomori Prefecture
Kodaihasu no Sato, Gyoda City, Saitama Prefecture

Text: MUKAI Natsuko


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