Monday, January 25, 2010

Fields of Dreams

The subject today is not anything new, more like a phenomenon that has been around for fifteen years, and been in the news from time to time, but to my way of thinking is such a spectacular creation that it deserves being shared with as many people as possible—art lover or not. The people in a small northern village of Japan have created an astounding art form based upon the ancient rice culture of their village.

a Japanese warrior of the Sengoku, or Warring Period

Inakadate is a small rice-growing village in Aomori Prefecture 400 miles north of Tokyo. It has a rice farming culture that stretches into the distant past, with archeological evidence showing that people in the area were cultivating rice 2,000 years ago. This is a heritage that the modern citizens of Inakadate have not taken lightly. It isn’t hard to imagine how the people of the village first came to see works of art growing out of their fields. There is something almost riveting about an expansive field of verdant rice plants quivering in the breeze, sunlight winking in an ocean of green, wind creating cascades of light and shadow in a living dance. It’s almost art as is. In 1993 Inakadate’s village council took up the idea of creating giant works of rice plant art, using huge rice paddies as their canvas. The medium?—varieties of rice plants which grow in different colors. They chose to use four strains of rice for their color palette: Beni Miyako (red Miyako), Tsugaru Roman (fresh green), and two ancient varieties, ki ine (yellow rice) and murasaki ine (purple rice). In the first few years, the designs were plotted out by hand, followed by numbers of farmers and volunteers doing the actual planting, carefully supervised to bring a paper design to life in flourishing rice plants. The process is naturally in accordance with the seasons, and the growth of the art follows a natural growing cycle. What adds to the beauty is the fact that each September the rice is harvested and becomes what is almost sacred food on tables nationwide.

a view of Napoleon on horseback

The response of visitors was overwhelming from the start, and the project has grown over the years to include a wider range of designs, computer programming, a deluge of volunteers, as well as substantial growth in the town’s tourist industry. Inakadate has become quite famous, and rightly so, since their rice paddy art is indeed a remarkable achievement. This quaint village of 8,700 people hosted 200,000 art-viewing tourists in summer of 2006 alone. The leader of the project is a village official named Akio Nakayama, who says, “I feel happy to see many people come to see our rice paddies, because here in Inakadate Village, rice and people’s lives are very closely connected.”

This field shows a reproduction of Katsushika Hokusai’s well-known woodblock print, Great Wave Off Kanagawa; The Japanese characters read: ‘Inakadate - Tsugaru Roman’ indicating the name of the village and the variety of green rice used.

close-up of the rice plants used to create the artwork

No comments:

Post a Comment

About Me

My photo
Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America