Frogs, Mud and Rice Planting

June 3rd, 2009By Category: Culture

rice-fields-blog-10-copyKonnichi wa from Akita! It’s me your Akita Bijin, Akie, up-here in one of the best rice producing prefectures in all of Japan! So, no need for me to be telling you what time of year this is for us in good ole Akita…’Yep!  You guessed it!’  Its rice-planting season, so we are up to our knees and elbows in magic mud! Hehehehe!

Well, I don’t know if it is really magic or not but it sure feels good! Sometimes I like to take my rubber boots off and let the mud just ‘ooooooze’ between my toes! It’s so nice! I’m sure it must be good for my skin. Maybe I should fill up the ofuro, bathtub, and take a mud bath. Boy, would I be in big trouble with my mom then! Anyway, enough dirty talk…back to the rice…Akita Komachi as our rice is known, is famous throughout Japan as Premium grade rice.

The name, Komachi is short for Ono no Komachi, a Heian era Waka poet renowned for her exotic poems. She was also famous for her exquisite beauty, which doesn’t surprise me at all. It is no wonder then that part of our legendary beauty is derived from our Komachi rice. I’ll talk more about Ono no Komachi in later blogs, but it might be interesting to note that should you plan to visit good ole Akita, you might be hitching a ride on our Shinkansen (bullet train), bearing the name, Komachi.

Superior growing techniques, extensive knowledge, and a long history of experience, coupled with an excellent climate and clean pure water makes our rice so yummy! Its original roots are said to have come from “Koshi-Hikari”, a well-known brand of the highest quality Japanese rice. Akita is an agricultural prefecture with rice and sake as its chief products. And if you think our rice really tastes great, wait until you try our sake! But that’s fodder for another blog, another time.

So, our planting season is going on right now (from the end of May) to the first week or so in June. As we are a high-volume rice producing prefecture we have the tools for the task – big tractors, small planters, etc.  Still, school children are offered the unique opportunity to plant the rice seedlings (which have been green-housed raised until they are 30 to 50 centimeters high) by hand. What a wonderful chance for the kids to experience, and get to know our rice and rice culture. I like to help out too, as it is great to be out in the fresh air…The one thing I don’t like though, are the little green frogs that jump and splash about.

Can you imagine ‘gooooshing’ one between your toes!! Iya da (terrible). But, I’m told by the farmers they are a blessing.  Apparently, they help to control some of the pests that attack the crops. As the stalks begin to grow and the grain begins to appear, we have to cover some fields with fine netting to keep the birds from eating the kernels…Oh!  One cool science thing to note…Recent eco-experiments with the Komachi rice husks -usually a waste byproduct- have yielded a highly absorbent oil spill clean-up material. (How intelligent do I sound?!)  We Japanese pride ourselves on finding uses for something others might waste. Hey, I could ramble on and one about Komachi rice but I really need to get back to work planting these seedlings and avoiding these frogs.

Gee, I hope I got these rows straight. The best part of getting muddy though, is the hot bath afterwards. So I’ll go get cleaned up and come back with another fun blog for you soon. Until then, this is muddy Akie saying, Mata ne!

Author of this article

Malcolm Ernst

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