On Saturday, we had gorgeous view of golden rice paddy under the blue sky. In order to protect skin, we needed to wear long sleeves. The sunshine was so strong. All of us sweated from the beginning. Mr.FUEKI Akira, a local farmer, taught us the important and difficult skill, to bundle the sheaf, called “Meruke,” in this area.
However in one hour or so, people acquired the ways. Some were just keep cutting and bundling works and some were doing the work taking neighboring persons joyfully. Fresh green colored frogs were jumping out from the ground. Red dragonflies were coming close to us. From a tiny structure to introduce water to the paddy, small fishes were caught and a local biologist explained those as one of endangered species in Japan, called “Shiny-Motsugo.”
On Sunday, weather condition totally changed. We started the work one hour earlier. It was cool and comfortable at the beginning. The work went smoother than the day before. Close to the noon, the rain started. The temperature went down, too. At the end, all of us worked hard to finish. Surprisingly we finished all works from cutting, budding and hanging by shortly after 1 pm.
“I somehow felt appreciation when I thought each of those grains was a ‘seed’ when I faced to those rice. The shining golden rice field might not be illusion. Rice was shining because they were celebrating the final phase to pass the life to the next generation;” a young participant commented.
On September 27 and 28 in 2020, ECOPLUS organized a workshop on harvesting organic rice as a part of “ABC in a rice paddy” in Tochitsubo village, Minamiuonuma , Nigata. Due to the situation of COVID-19, we conducted it as a voluntary participating event without overnight stay unlike the usual workshops. Through 2 days, 24 people participated in this event on the non-chemical rice paddy.
Under the very wet weather condition, participants needed to wear rain gears and boots. From Mr. FUEKI Akira who has been taking care of the rice paddies, we learned how to use sickles to harvest rice and the way to tie harvested rice with rice straw. His tying skill was eye-opening and it was just like magic.
We started harvesting….however, it did not go so easily! It was actually difficult to cut all the stems of rice with sickles clearly. Tying the harvested one with rice straw was another problem because it easily becomes loose if you don’t tie it correctly. In addition to this hard situation, the paddy field, which became bottomless swamp due to the rain, caught our legs even up to our knees and didn’t let it go. What you will see if you fall on the ground is your entire body covered with dirt. I assume this was the biggest point that made us suffer the most this time.
As the time went, a sense of solidarity was created among the participants somehow; automatically we set the bluesheets near each of us as a halfway point to collect the harvest sheaf of rice so that we could minimize the walking distance on the muddy ground. Being in the line and doing a relay the sheaf of rice was also helpful in putting them on the rack to dry them easily. The sheaves of rice that were tied tightly didn’t get loosened even if it was treated roughly a little bit.
The creatures living in the paddy were an oasis for us having hard time due to working in a muddy and wet condition. “Schlegel’s Green Tree Frog” was an especially popular star among us. Even the girls who do not touch the insects usually were rubbing the frog who have such an adorable look of typical frog.
We could only see these creatures because it was on the paddy field without any pesticide and working with our own hands but not by the machine.
By the lunch time of the second day, the paddy field which has the size of 1,400㎡ was cleared completely and the rice were all hanged on the drying rack. That scenery was just so lovely to see and I could not help to have an image of newly harvested rice in my mind. Some of the participants made their minds saying “I want to experience planting rice next year but not only harvesting” I wonder what the liquid going down on the face was. Was it the rain water, sweat, or the tears? A sense of accomplishment was filling our mind at the end. Of course, muscle pain didn’t forget to suffer us the next morning though….! (reported by FUKUI Tomoyuki, translated by HASUMI Chigira)
Ecoplus conducted rice harvesting workshop on Oct. 13-14, 2019, at Tochikubo village, Minamiuonuma, Niigata. Due to the slow growth of rice in this year, we once postponedthe schedule one week and caused by typhoon #19, or “Hagibis,” we set the workshop one day later. Students and adults from metropolitan area were struggled to come struggling confused train and highway networks. At the end seven participants succeeded to participate the program.
With the heavy rain by the typhoon, the rice paddies was covered by an inch or two of water. It was quite tough condition although most of rice were not knocked down by the wind. In such condition, a high school boy, who experienced the work first time, learned and acquired how to cut straws and to bind those by a year old straws.
In the rice paddy, no chemical pesticides nor weed killers has been used for over ten years. Only organic fertilizer has been used. Because of such efforts, many weeds were covering the ground and many insects were hopping around. Sheaves of rice were hung along the bars called “Haza,” for sun dry for around 10 days. Through this, participants experienced the way of traditional rice production of the area until some decades ago.
Participants left comments like “Accumulating the experience for long years, I am still feeling that how difficult to make food is, and how important to have harmonious relation with the nature is. ” “I identified so many knowledges embedded in the harvesting works and I felt the tick accumulations of knowledge for long years.”
In the rice paddies in Tochikubo village, Minami-Uonuma, Niigata, which is the heartland of famous Koshi-Hikari-Rice, ears of rice are getting ripped. With less sun shines since mid-August, the progress is bit late but rice paddies are now having beautiful yellowish color. We will conduct harvesting workshop on 13-14 Oct.
Program Fee including lunch on day 2 and insurance; 5,000 JPY. Student discount, 50%; Children under 6 years old, lunch fee and insurance only. Gathering spot; JR Shiozawa Station of Joetsu Line Accommodations; Local Inn, dormitory rooms male/female separated; 7.500 JPY including dinner/breakfast Compliment; 2 kg of harvested rice after sun-dried process.