November 19, 2011

Behind blooming flowers

In the middle of the paddy fields, there are the broad areas covered with blooming flowers. People are overwhelmed with the massive beauty and take photos.

In summer, purple water flowers are in full bloom beside the paddy fields.

In autumn, cosmoses bloom in the middle of the paddy fields.

The farmers have replaced rice with flowers, but why?
The scenery makes me think about TPP.

"To be, or not to be: that is the question:"

The question of whether Japan should join the TPP (the Trans-Pacific Partnership) has been the center of controversy in Japan.  Prime Minister Noda told that Japan will enter consultations with other couturiers toward joining negotiations on the TPP.
While the farmers are strongly against TPP, the manufacturers and other businesses have  high hopes as TPP will revitalize the sagging economy.

The rice farming has been long protected and subsidized by the government of Japan mainly in two ways.

1.  The government has put the tariff of 778% on imported rice. If the tariff  is eliminated, the high- priced Japanese rice will not be able to compete with cheep imported rice and the farmers may stop grow rice. It will lead to the collapse of the rice cultivation in Japan. 
2. Also the government has practiced  the policy of rice paddy reduction to prevent the price of rice from taking a drop by the oversupply of rice.
Rice is said it is the only one agricultural product whose self-sufficiency rate is 100%. The farmers who follow the policy of rice paddy reduction are subsidized by the government. And they start to plant flowers instead of rice.

I think the protectionism is a double-edged sword. The above policies have been protected rice farming, but at the same time it is said that they have been depriving the farmers of  the motivation and pride to grow good rice. Anyway Japanese rice farming has not been healthy any more. I have ambivalent sentiment about the protectionism in rice cultivation. 
Rice is more than staple food in Japan. It has been deeply connected to our daily life and embedded in Japanese culture, being closely associated with Shinto which is indigenous religion of Japan. Rice is the food to the soul of the Japanese. It must be protected. But also I think if rice is exposed to free market competition, there may be the chance, even a very slim chance.
”"身を捨ててこそ浮かぶ瀬もあり means "Nothing ventured, nothing gained.” For example, maybe there is a possibility for Japanese rice to be the brand-named rice which are expensive, but safe and delicious.

I wonder what the farmers think when they seed flowers instead of rice.

I finished this blog after a long struggle with my son's malfunctioning PC.  Now I'm in Tokyo and stay with my son. I'll be back to Nara next Friday.

Japan went through two drastic changes to become modern country. In 1867, Meiji Restoration took place when Shogun, the head of Samurai, returned his political power to the emperor. After World War Two, huge reforms were held, including farmland reform. If Japan accepts TPP, it will be the third change. What will it bring to Japan?

November 03, 2011

Silver Sea

This is the silver world!
 My husband and I were amazed and lost words. We had never seen such a broad area covered with only silver pampas grasses. Last week, we went to Soni Highlands in Soni Village, Nara prefecture.

The pampas grass field continues as far as we can see. 

 A wind blows and  the silver heaves ripple and roll.

Several years ago, the villagers declared
their village is one of the most beautiful villages in Japan.
 No wonder.

There is no fancy flower gardens, but the quiet world of silver grasses.
I felt  as if the pampas grasses had absorbed any sound.

Once upon a time pampas grasses had been  important materials to roof in this village.  But the demands of them decreased rapidly.  So, a plan to transplant Japanese cedar trees instead popped up, but the villagers could not afford  to see the magnificent field of pampas grasses disappear,  and they decided to leave the field.  Nara Prefecture Government has helped preserve  40-hectare pampas field since then.

The ears of pampas grasses look like crystal beads shining against the sun.

They have brewed  the local beer "Soni Beer" in German style.
We could not wait to drink beer before taking photos.

We enjoyed lunch  tasting the beer which is amazingly light and mild! 

we were so mesmerized that we badly wanted to see pampas grasses shining  in dusk. But there was only one bus service a day commuting between Soni Highlands and the nearest station.  We had to take 2:30 bus to the station. We  decided to come back here again. On the way back home, we dropped in a travel agent and found a tour to Soni Highlands in dusk.

Too cloudy to see the sunset.

Yesterday we joined the tour, but unfortunately it was too cloudy to see the beautiful sunset. We imagined the pampas grasses against the setting sun glowing in gold!! It must have looked like Buddha's Pureland.  It is said that gold rays emit from the body of Buddha. That's why the main hall of a temple, where the main object of worship is enshrined, is called the golden hall. We will come here again. It is the great rain check for next year!

Young autumn leaves near Soni Village.

If you are interested in pampas grasses, please look at my blog, "Song in praise of autumn" where there are photos of young pampas grasses shinning in reddish bronze.