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?


  1. I am new to your blog and want to thank you for these lovely photos and the history behind them.

  2. Such beautiful photos, as always, Keiko. Thank you too for the history.

  3. So beautiful! I enjoy your posts so much!

  4. Lovely new header and photos in today's blog post. I understand your ambivalence about the rice protection policy.

  5. Will the landscape become less beautiful if rice production is no longer protected? Or more beautiful because the farmers choose to grow flowers?

    Making agriculture "efficient" in Western Europe at least, is often a matter of creating monocultures and ruining the landscape.

    Your photos, as always, are lovely.

  6. What magical photos of the rice paddies interspersed with flowers in different seasons. I love the heads of the rice, too - they do look "life sustaining." Subsidies are always debatable. I enjoyed learning more of this issue. Have a happy visit with your son, Keiko!

  7. 黄金色に輝く稲穂を背景にした日本建築/家屋こそが私達の心の故郷ですね。

    今週は東京におられるのですか? 是非 keikoさん の目で切りとられた 「東京風景」を見せて頂きたいと思います。
    o(^-^)o 宜しくお願いしまぁす!!

  8. Hello Keiko
    I think the photo of the rice heads is glorious. I love the colours, the delicacy, the fragility and the endurance of this plant and it's life giving ability. Thank you for an interesting story.
    I read only yesterday that the rice harvested from the Fukushima area contains a too high level of radiation. Poor farmers from that prefecture will need handouts too.

    My daughter and baby went to Tokyo yesterday and she is very concerned about the availability of safe produce in Tokyo. I wonder how difficult it is to know the sources of the foodstuffs.

    The cosmos and purple water flower do look amazing in large areas like the paddy fields.

  9. Hello,Somwhite.
    Have a nice day.

  10. Lovely...
    Greetings from France,


  11. Stamens of purple water flowers are magical!and the whole view is magnificent. Cosmos and pagoda and golden rice paddy is very Japan like view in autumn. Indeed, I wonder how Japanese rice will become.
    Enjoy in Tokyo.

  12. Hi

    Personally, I basically support Prime Minister Noda's decision to move a step forward toward further opening Japan by taking part in the TPP framework, however, I'm feeling ambivalent about it just like you.

    The purple flowers in bloom are really fantastic. I so enjoyed this post. I read your previous post and found a silver sea of susuki fascinating! The Soni highlands must be the best place to see susuki!! Thank you.

  13. What lovely photo views of the fields of landscape, Keiko. The history of Japan of the rice fields/flowers ambivilence was informative . . .

    Your photos are inspiring and your new header is lovely . . .

  14. Thank you for the lovely photos and the background. This is a fascinating story, thanks Keiko,

  15. Hello Keiko
    I've missed your posts. for the history of your beautiful land and the beauty also. I think our countries are experiencing similar growth questions. what dignity is there for the farmer when what they grow if for beauty and no longer a requirement for life? oh, one could argue that beauty is a requirement, that is true. but a flower will not replace food on the table. your photos are so lovely. thank you for sharing the history and beauty of your lands. happy weekend Keiko.

  16. The question of protectionism (which was long ago proven to be detrimental to the economy as a whole) will soon become academic: with Japanese debt at 225% of GDP, and with 50% of government revenue being used to just pay off debt including interest, soon there will be no money to subsidize farmers or anyone else.

    (This does not mean I am necessarily in favour of TPP - there are other considerations - but I am in favour of free trade. TPP is not free trade, but managed trade. Just as protectionism is not the free market but a managed economy.

  17. Another fascinating post Keiko. The beautiful, colorful flowers amidst the rice fields is looking so pretty. Rice is staple food here in India too, it is produced it huge quantities...
    Thanks for sharing the colorful post.
    Have a fabulous week ahead:)

  18. It seems like protectionism is a good thing: it protects traditional industries like whaling; it keeps prices stable; it protects against food shortages. Unfortunately, there is another reality to these policies that we cannot see straight away. It looks like the sun goes around the earth, right?
    I am starting an Economics English Reading Group, partly to study some of these issues raised by TPP. If anyone in the Nara area is interested, please contact me for details.

  19. I can't imagine Japan not selling rice! What do they do with the flowers? Do they sell them?

    All these shots are marvels - so beautiful!

  20. There's no 100% good policy or bad policy but Japanese farmers have long been tossed about government's agricultural policy. Consumers' support for quality produce is also an important factor, no matter how TPP may settle.

    As for blue flowers, hoteiaoi in Japanese,also called water hyacinth, look so beautiful in cluster. I didn't know this but they were listed one of 100 world's worst invasive alien species. They could become ecological plague unless you deal with them properly.

    Thank you for raising a hot issue despite inconvenient situation.
    Enjoy your stay in Tokyo.

  21. 斑鳩の里のコスモス、本薬師寺跡のホテイアオイ・・・・、精力的に撮影されていたんですね。 このポストでは7枚目のが特に好きです。水面に映る花と手前のぼけ効果が絶妙な相乗効果をあげています。東京もsnowwhiteさんのカメラではどう表現されるか楽しみです。

    Thank you for this timely issue together with the fascinating photography as always.


  22. Protectionism for certain groups like farmers is common here too. There was a good motive for it when it started, but I think it's time for a change, like you said. I hope that things will turn around soon for everyone's sake.

  23. I also like flowers.

    It seems incredible the wide range of colors they have, I never tire of watching them. Very beautiful images that show us.

    I hope you have a safe trip and to return.

  24. Absolutely pretty there with the violet flowers!

  25. This is a dilemma,around the world farming seems to be at the mercy of government legislation and multinational companies.I've never come across Japanese rice here,I may look out for it!
    Thank you for sharing this information and your lovely photos.

    Happy weekend Keiko!

  26. I forgot to say,your header image is stunning!

  27. Rice is a staple but flowers can also bring good business to farmers – in France there are fields covered with flowers such as lavender – there are also fields of roses, carnations, etc., which are sold to make perfumes that are sold all over the world.


Thanks a lot for visiting my blog and leaving warm messages. I will visit your site soon. keiko