Behind the rice curtain
Posted by ampontan on Wednesday, October 8, 2008
THE SCENE FOR YESTERDAY’S POST was Tanabe, Wakayama, and by a happy coincidence, here is another story about the city that appeared today.
It’s now the season for harvesting rice in Japan, when the farmers cut the grain, tie it in bundles, stack it on end, and leave it in the field to dry. This farm household in Tanabe has a different system, however: they strap logs together to erect a large frame, from which they hang the rice sheaves.
They’ve been doing it for more than 45 years now. (I’d mention their names, but I’d have to guess at the reading.) The frame itself is five meters high and 18 meters wide, and it holds nine rows of stalks. One of the family members climbs the ladder while another uses a wooden pole to snatch the stalks and swing them up for hanging. The entire process, including the frame assembly, takes two full days.
Years ago, the family used to pile the rice from their terraced paddy in one place for drying. One of the reasons they switched to this method was to prevent the wild boar and deer in the area, whose numbers are increasing, from eating it.
The farmer here is one of the lucky ones—his son and her wife plan on taking over the farm. Nowadays the children of many Japanese farmers want nothing to do with farm labor.
It’s not a particularly important story, but I liked the picture, and I’m always interested in people coming up with clever variations on methods that for everyone else have become a cut-and-dried process.
And with the old method of rice harvesting, it literally is a cutting and drying process!