ECOPLUS conducted the first workshop on rice farming, called “ABC in a rice paddy” on May 25-26, 2019 at Tochikubo village, Niigata Japan. Under the beautiful summer sky, participants from metropolitan area enjoyed works in a rice paddy with songs of birds, cool breeze and lunch next to the paddy.
On 25th, the sky was totally blue with any pieces of clouds. So we went up above the village by car and walked an half hour to the top of Mt. Teruyama, which has elevation of 736 meters. We could oversee the ridge of mountains reaching to 2,000 m elevation and the Uonuma basin which is the heartland of the most sought after rice, “Uonuma Koshi-Hikari.”
During the walk to the top of Teruyama, we identified several edible plants just next to the path. We also surprised by so many butterflies circling around us. On the way back, we took the over four century old road used by worriers in the battle age in Japan. On that road, snow was still remained and another edible plants can be identified near the road.
On 26th, we concentrated our time for rice planting. The paddy which has been growing rice for 13 years without any chemicals was smoothed prepared by the locals. Rolling a wooden frame of hexagon shape, we set marks on the surface then we planted seedlings in line. At the beginning it was difficult to set the seedlings but with the support from locals, saying set the seedlings not to be floated away and not to push in too deep, participants learned the way shortly.
The planting work was finished in 3 and hard hours and the lunch started. So many dishes like, miso-soup with wild edible plants, rice balls, tempura of another edible plant, called “Yamaudo,” we deeply understood the richness and happiness to live close to the nature. Participants discussed a lot about the relation between nature, food and agriculture during the weekend.
ECOPLUS hosted a group of students from University of Michigan from 19 to 20 May in Minami-Uonuma for their learning on the relation with environment, life and culture through experiencing rice planting, weaving and other activities.
On 19th, they strolled around the village of Tochikubo which is located on the slope of around 500 meters elevation. They were deeply impressed by the scenery of mountains covered by white snow and young green, saying “this land might be so expensive.” They also encountered an old lady who was drying mountain vegetable called “Zenmai.”
On 20th, they experienced traditional rice planting by hands. They screamed a bit while they put their bare feet in the muddy soil of the paddy but later they acquired how to plant young seedlings in line and they finished the work in three hours.
On the last day, 21st, they came back to the city area, “Shiozawa,” to learn about the local ramie cloth called “Echigo-Zyofu,” which has over a thousand year history. Specialists from Echigo-Jofu technique preservation association demonstrated how to get fibers fro the skin of the plant, how to dye the yarn for patterns, and how to weave. Some of the students experienced actual works by their hands.
Through the three-day stay, they seem to deepen the understanding on the relation with life and nature, like getting fuels from the forest, drinking water from the spring, making the water system running around all the terraced rice paddies.