On 26 and 27 May, ECOPLUS conducted “a weekend farming workshop; rice planting” in Tochikubo village in Niigata Japan. Under the limitation of lodging space, we had eight participants from Niigata city and Metropolitan area.
We had water shortage caused by extremely small snow in previous winter in 2016, and low temperature and wet condition in 2017. This year we had enough snow as same as usual years but temperatures went up after March and it melted snow substantially. Farmers are worrying again the shortage of water.
On Saturday, we started planting seedlings in a smaller paddy which has around 800 square meters. Those paddies which have been growing rice without any chemical materials, the area was filled with so many creatures, like tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies.
Thanks to the strong sunshine, surface of the mud is very warm. We set 4-6 seedlings in one position 1 centimeter under the surface.
One of the participants was came from Thailand but she was from the central part of big city, Bangkok. She and his Japanese husband were so good at planting works although it was the first time for them.
At the dinner so many dishes using wild vegetables just harvested by the chef from their hills were appeared. Some were boiled and mixed with sesame source or vinegar source, some were fried as “Templa”. We enjoyed the gorgeousness of the life in the mountain.
It was also very nice weather on Sunday and one of the participants succeeded to see the beautiful sunrise at 4 o’clock in the morning.
After finishing rice planting using one hour and so, we had open air lecture from Mr. FUEKI Akira, a veteran farmer. He explained that in old days when the paddies were much smaller and narrow, they conducted rice plantings one paddy to next one moving water from upper paddy to lower one. He also taught that normally 20 pesticides, weed killers or other chemicals were used for rice growing in one season but for this totally organic rice paddy he uses no chemicals. Because of this, he needs to weed by hands at least three times before harvest in each paddies.
Natsumi, Mr.Ohmae and I went to the supermarket to prepare for today’s exchange session. At 3 pm , we started preparation. Cooking rice, cutting cucumbers and raw fishes.
At 5:30pm, Yapese and host families gathered at Shiozawa Seminar House. The session was held with many local foods. For example, they gave us yellow pickles(Takuan) , sermon, boiled plants(Zenmai), etc. We ate Temaki-sushi.
At the session, Tina met the family who hosted her 16 years ago. The host mother and father came to the session to meet her. They looked so happy and I was impressed.
Mr. Nozawa, who is a photographer, showed us a picture show. It included pictures of Yap and Japan! I haven’t been to Yap , but want to go there. Because all the pictures were beautiful.
After that, Yapese and Japanese had a meeting each. Yapese finished at 11pm. Chaperones and young staff finished around 12 am. Actually, I was sleepy, but it was very good to talk about many things.
A total of 20 people, including company workers, students, and families from various countries,visited Tochikubo, Niigata Prefecture from Tokyo metropolitan area. They enjoyed walking around the area and rice planting over the weekend.
The holiday agricultural project, ABC in a rice paddy, was held on 21 and 22 of May. It is a series of programs throughout the year, and this time, the first occasion of the year, was about rice planting.
On the first day, participants went for a walk in Tochikubo area with a villager, FUEKI Akira. From the centre of village to the top of Mt Taru, 736m, they enjoyed encounters with varieties of mountain vegetables and some rare wildlife. Although it was summer-like hot, they managed to reach the peak and one participant said \”When I stood at the top and saw how far we have come, I felt that I had achieved something\”.
After coming back from the mountain, they had a lecture and learned about the different types of rice seedlings, process of rice farming without any chemicals and pesticides, history and current challenges of rice farming in Tochikubo.
On the second day, early in the morning, most participants and some locals joined a bird watching session by FUKASAWA Kazuki. Despite of poor visibility due to mist and rain, his knowledge helped participants have a great time. At the very moment he talked about the sound of rare bird species, Akashobin (ruddy kingfisher), participants actually heard it. Whenever someone or Fukasawa found wildlife such as frogs, salamanders, and insects in the water, he provided an instant lecture about the features and ecosystem of them.
Rice planting began, having waited for the rain to calm down. It was well-supported by locals as participants learned a traditional way to band rice plants with straws, and planted them. They went into a rice paddy together with baskets filled with bunches of rice seedlings.
At lunch time, a group formed by local women called \”Kaachanz\” (Team-mothers) served miso soup with lots of local vegetables and dried fish. Everyone appreciated the soup as it warmed up their cold body from inside. Many people went into the kitchen to have the second of the miso soup.
Participants continued planting rice in the afternoon, and managed to finish the whole paddy around 2:30. They got a compliment from a local person on how straight they could plant.
Thanks to the knowledge and skills of local people, ABC in a rice paddy in 2011 has been kicked off!