Understood the detailed process of rice growing through 2-day workshop, the first time since the beginning of the pandemic.


ECOPLUS conducted the rice planting workshop on the weekend of May 21-22 in Tochikubo village in Minami-Uonuma, Niigata. The workshop had been shrunk as one day trip because of the COVID-19 and this was the first time to organize as the full-program since 2019. For the rice planting workshop, from elementary school kids to retired person, in total of around 30 were joined.


On Saturday, we gathered at the “Chateau Hotel Ipponsugi“ near the village. We moved up to the top of the mountain ridge by cars and observed the view of the Uonuma basin which is the home of the famous “Koshihikari” rice. The mountain area was once a bottom of ancient ocean. According to the locals, the minerals once accumulated in the bottom of the ocean is still seeping out, then provides rich nutrition to the rice.


Through the mountain ridge, parts of ancient path since the medieval tome were remained. We strolled along the small part of the path which was still covered by snow. Edible mountain vegetables were also identified in the forest near the path.



In the Tochikubo village, Mr. FUEKI Akira gave us a lecture on rice growing focusing on rice planting period. Many works needed before the rice planting, like spreading organic fertilizer, tilling, fine tilling with water, selection of well grown seeds with salt water, making seed bed, and others. Participants were impressed by so many steps with well experienced skills and knowledges were hidden in daily life in rice farming.


At the dinner, local edible vegetable were offered in different dishes. Surprisingly, the long dinner table which was decorated with local vines with purple flower and arrangements of edible vegetables provided the atmosphere close to the nature. The dinner was followed b the slide show of different seasons of the area.


On Sunday, it was still raining in the breakfast time but when we arrived to the rice paddy, rain was almost stoped. At the begging, we used an hexagon wood frame with 3 miters wide to mark on the soil to identify where the seedlings should be sit. First, OHMAE of ECOPLUS made one round trip, then other participant followed. It was not easy to go straight. Elementary school kids and high school student also tried to roll the frame with the supporting calls.

Surrounded by the beautiful nature, we enjoyed traditional planting works in this non-chemical rice paddy.


Rice paddy was not so cold and we could feel the softness of the soil. In fact, bear feet would be the best to experience the rice planting. Big rubber boots would make big foot prints which might lay down planted seedlings. With bear feet, we could feel the difference of depth of the mud and difference of the quality of the soil.


Time by time, we had blue sky with beautiful sunshine. Participants accustomed to plant seedlings gradually then, all the rice paddy were filled with young seedling in order by the noon. The lunch was prepared by a local inn; rice balls, cooked mountain vegetables and miso-soup with different mountain vegetables.



Coming back the hotel, we had the reflection session. As a full program for two days, we had lecture and other activities in advance of the actual works in the rice paddy. Many participants said, with the enough background understandings, actual rice planting work was more meaningful experience. ECOPLUS also confirmed that the full program could offer deeper learning on rice, history, tradition. and sustainability.

Next workshop is scheduled on the weekend of June 11-12 with the theme of “weeding.”


Harvesting Workshop in Organic Rice Paddy


On September 25 and 26 of 2021, ECOPLUS conducted harvesting workshop in an organic rice paddy in Tochikubo Village in Minamiuonuma, the heartland of the famous “Koshihikari-Rice,” in Niigata.


Considering the situation of COVID-19, we organized the program as a day program asking participants come to and leave from the paddy directly. All 23 participants were fully vaccinated.


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.

「まるける」講習会。The difficult skill, “Maruke.”


More than half of participants were totally novice at using a sickle. At the beginning they were struggling to cut the stems clearly and to make “Maruke” in muddy rice paddy.


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.”

絶滅危惧ⅠAのシナイモツゴ。Red databook listed “Shinai-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.


The organic rice will be dried for 10 days to 2 weeks. Then husks will be removed and will be ready to eat. Only limited amount are available for interested persons.













ECOPLUS supported an online “service learning practicum” of Rikkyo university based in Tokyo, on 7 to 10 February, at Minamiuonuma city, Niigata.


In past years, the program had been conducted as three nights and four days actual program staying in the snowy village, Tochikubo, learning the reality of current Japanese society through volunteer works like snow shoveling. However, because of Covid-19, the program of this year was totally conducted on-line.


Students learned the situation of the village with video materials including footage of snow shoveling on the roof, interferes of the locals and introduction of the elementary school in the village with a total of 12 students from 1 to 6 grade. Then, online interactive session was held.


On 8 Feb., the interactive session with the elementary school was held. Kids presented what they learned during the school year with dance and play, then university and elementary students were communicated over the screen.


Also TAKANO Takako, an executive director of ECOPLUS and a visiting professor of Rikkyo university, visited community homes holding her laptop computer for the live interviews to offer the students the reality of the live and farming business in the snowy community.


Despite the hard situation by Covid-19, students looked like deepened understandings about the situation of Japanese society and acquired skills how to investigate current situation of the society and the prospect for the sustainable future.


Rice Harvesting Work under the Difficult Circumstances by Typhoon #19


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.”


Harvest Organic Rice by Sickles, Oct 13-14, at Minami-Uonuma


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.

【宿泊】地元の温泉民宿 7,500 円(1泊2食、温泉付き、男女別相部屋)

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.

<<Application Form, 申し込み書>>

お問い合わせはtappo@ecoplus.jpまで。Contact; tappo@ecoplus.jp



Weeding Workshop at Organic Rice Paddy

35 Students of Waseda Joined the program.


ECOPLUS held organic rice farming workshop called “Tanbo no I-ro-ha” or “ABC in a rice paddy,” on 8-9 June, 2019 at Tochikubo village in Niigata, Japan, having 35 students from Waseda University in Tokyo.

Time Lapse Video shows great progress. 時間短縮ビデオで見る学生たちの草取りパワー


Since we had very limited rain falls in May, some areas of rice paddies dried up and it helped weeds to grow seriously specially at our non-chemical, totally organic paddies. Students waled into the paddy with bare feet and used fully opened hands like as rakes to clear weeds.


Paddies were filled by water thanks to the rain since Friday evening but in most of the paddies the soil was so solid because of long dry condition that it was difficult to push fingers in the soil and we needed to pull out each weeds. Started the work at 9 am on Sunday, it took 4 hours and more to finish two rice paddies which size is over 1,000 square meters.


Beside weeding in rice paddies, villagers gave them lectures, and a specialist conducted nature tour. Through those students had a chance to feel the relationship between nature, life and community. They left comments like, “I strongly leant the true meaning of to live”, “I understood the hardship of farming”, “I should have more appreciation on food”.


Michigan Students Learnt Japan in Minami-Uonuma


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.


The trip was conducted by the relation with Ms. Leslie Pincus of University of Michigan and TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, as a part of their 3 weeks long tour to Japan.

Drying cooked mountain vegetable, “Zenmei.”


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.

Traditional sitting loom, called “IZARI-Bata,” or いざりばた


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.











Planting rice seedlings enjoying fresh winds; さわやかな風に吹かれて田植えを楽しむ


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.


Participants left comments, like “Superb scenery”, “Quietness and songs of birds were impressive”, “I know understood how hard to grow rice”.