September 17, 2012

Land Blessed with Rice


Photo taken in October, 2011

In ancient times, Japan was beautifully called "Mizuho no Kuni"(Land Blessed with Abundant Rice).

In summer, green blades of rice wave in the breeze. In autumn, golden ears of rice bow and shine in the sun. This scenery enriches the Japanese soul.


                                     Photo taken in October, 2011

The harvest has begun and new rice will be in circulation soon.

Across Japan,  we see a sight  where vast areas of blooming flowers appear in the middle of paddy fields. This is the result of rice paddy reduction policy practiced by the government to prevent the price of rice from taking a drop by oversupply of rice, and to protect the rice farmers. Being supported by the government, some farmers have stopped growing rice. Using these fallow rice fields, flowers are planted but not for sale.

At the ruins of Moto Yakushi-ji Temple built around the end of the 7th century,
 purple water hyacinths are in full bloom. 
The flowers were planted by the pupils of a local elementary school

People enjoy the massive beauty of flowers, walking through the fields and taking photos.



Whenever I see this kind of flower fields of water hyacinths or cosmoses , I have ambivalent feelings.

That the flowers pleasure the eye is better than that the fallow rice fields remain abandoned.
But, many countries in the world are suffering severe shortage of food. At such a time, is it right thing to do to practice the rice paddy reduction policy?

The government has put the tariff of 778% on imported rice. Because the high-priced Japanese rice can't compete with cheep imported rice. There is talk of rice liberalization which will drive Japanese rice farmers out of business.

Rice is more than staple food in Japan. It has been the soul food, being deeply connected to our daily life and associated with Japanese culture or Shinto which is indigenous religion of Japan. Without rice, Japan would have been a different country.

The foundation stones of the temple building

In the early evening light, the wings of  dragonflies shine in gold.



No people but me. The ruins are wrapped with shroud of darkness.

Visit Weekend Reflections and see more!

46 comments:

  1. Stunning photos and wonderful post. Have a wonderful week dear Keiko.

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  2. Thanks for those pictures, thanks for the discovery of this new aspect of your beautiful country.

    I lost one of my cats, last week-end and the purple of those flower is just like a gift to my pain (purple had been color for mournig, in Europe during centuries, before it was change to black at the begining of last century, for economical purposes).

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    1. I am so sad to hear about your loss. I remember you wrote about your cats in your blogs . Your cat was very, very happy with you. My deepest sympathy to you.

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  3. The night-time photos are so beautiful!

    I'm not a rice expert at all (we don't grow rice in Africa!) [grin!], but I was wondering ... does it help the rice paddies if they lie fallow for a while, or if crops are rotated?

    Personally I'd gladly pay 1000% more for Japanese rice if that would help to preserve the old customs. I know it's a romantic, unrealistic, possibly out-dated idea, but ... it's soul food.

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    1. Agriculture, especially rice farming in Japan is in catch 22 or dilemma situation, having a lot of problems. Farmers are getting older, but not enough successors. I think, many young people do not see a bright future in agriculture. To make agriculture competitive or improve its nature, drastic changes are needed such as the abolishing protectionism or adopting rice liberalization. But if they were done, many of rice farmers would be out of business. It is a slim chance or some kind of all or nothing like gambling. Over time, protectionism and other policies have weakened Japanese agriculture. No politicians or bureaucrats have dared being involved in these problems. Bad habits, bad procrastination.

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  4. I read somewhere that these water hyacinths are very invasive,so they may be difficult to eradicate if this is ever wanted. The beauty of the flowers certainly takes thoughts away from what is going on!
    Your photos are beautiful,I especially like the images of the red sky reflected on pools.

    Enjoy your week Keiko,
    Ruby

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    1. I just thought they are very strong. But it means they are invasive. Just now I read Wikipedia and was surprised. Wikipedia tells me "it has become serious invasive plant species". They were introduced to Japan as ornamental plant. Fortunately, the rice fields do not seem to be invaded. I do not understand why they chose water hyacinths.

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  5. Beautiful photos of fields of flowers . . . so sad about the rice though . . .

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  6. I hope some communities, free from government, will be organised for anyone who
    want to work on farm. It will be effective for food supply and independence of people,I think. Small amount of self-sufficiency is not good for the future of any contry.

    夕暮れの景色 何とも言えずいいですね。美しさ以上に物の本質を見ようとする目を感じます。

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    1. I agree with you. The government and Japan Agricultural Cooperatives(JA,農協)have controlled the farmers in many ways. Their involvement is depriving the farmers of the motivation and pride to grow good rice. If they leave rice farming issues to the farmers more, unexpected change may take place and things may go well.
      I am so glad that you like my photos.

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  7. The last photo is a little haunting and the pink clouds mirrored in the water remind me of delicious pink cotton candy. The changes of mood in these pictures reflect the irony of planting beautifully distracting flowers where rice could be grown. Many societies could feed all the starving people on the planet if leaders dared to think more creatively.

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    1. Yes, it is ironical very much.
      On this day, beautiful scale-like clouds appeared in the sky and turned rosy. Two days later, I came back this place, but sky condition was very bad and no sun set.
      I agree with you more than 100%. Leaders should think more creatively and have more global views. All of us are on the same ship.

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  8. I like the way you stay with your subject, even until the sun goes down and the autumn moon is rising. Your patience, your willingness to immerse yourself in your subject, and your emotional involvement are all justifiably rewarded with stunning imagery. Keep up the great work!

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    1. While taking photos, I was caught in a sudden shower. I took a shelter at the nearest cafe, there I saw the photos of the beautiful sunset. I went back and waited for a sunset with other cameramen. If there had been no shower, I would have been never here in sunset. It was a very lucky chance for me. In east, the moon rose. Fascinating sight. I did not know when other cameramen were gone. I was so happy and forgot time.
      Bruce, Thanks a lot, you always encourage me very much!

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  9. Great photo. The second last shot has awesome color. I miss Japanese beautiful nature. :)

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    1. I do hope the beautiful nature will be passed down to future children forever.

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  10. Keiko, you have raised some questions we have here in the USA also. But, here we don't plant beautiful flowers in the government-sponsored fallow fields like you do in Japan! That is lovely but poignant when you think of how many people could be fed around the world - many for every flower that is enjoyed. Your photos are just lovely, and make me want to put water hyacinths in our pond again!

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    1. Food supply or food production is very unbalanced in the world, isn't it? We have eaten less rice than before. This is one of the reasons why the rice paddy reduction policy is needed.
      Now some food makers are producing rice bread, replacing flour with rice powder. These bread are gluten free, so good for people who are allergic to gluten.
      Linda, Forest Dream Weaver taught me in her comment the flowers are invasive. So be careful. In a limited area, it will be no problem, I think.

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  11. I can understand your questions but I have to say these flowers are beautiful, Keiko! Lovely photos!

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  12. Beautiful flowers but disguising a difficult issue. Thank you for caring.

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  13. Wonderful photographs in combination with a serious topic, Keiko. Rice is definitely more than foodstuff in Japan, it's a national symbol, even a sainthood.
    The prices for rice are extremley high in your country compared to German rice prices. It's suspenceful for me to study how the Japanese government will shape it price and tax policy in a world growing more and more together.
    Uwe.

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    1. we are eating expensive rice, sigh. I think the government or bureaucrats are apt to take policies favorable for them but not for people. Epecially when it comes to rice, we get gullible because of magnitude of rice. Anyway, the protectionism is a double-edged sword which protects farmers but also deprive the farmers of the motivation or pride o grow good rice.

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  14. Hi,Snowwhite.
    こんばんわ!見事に咲いたホテイアオイですね。2年前に今のカメラを買って始めて写真を撮りに行ったのが、薬師寺跡地のホテイアオイでした。たまたま、テレビのロ―カルニュースでホテイアオイ二つく貝(なんでしたっけ?)を駆除する為に地元の年老いた男性が水をかき分けて一生懸命作業しておられるの見て、お花とその男性を撮らせて欲しくて出かけましたが、その男性はおられず、オートで撮ったホテイアオイは、すべて没。難しかったです!夜お一人で怖くなかったですか~~?

    マウスが偶然パソコンの画面を滑ったら、ブログのヘッダーが動いて開きました!

    Tomoko

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    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

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    2. タニシみたいな貝がいっぱい水の中にいましたが、それでしょうか?? 載せていませんが、学校帰りの小学生のグループが私に手を振ってくれたので、写真に撮りました。地元の小学生がホテイアオイを植えたという看板がたててあったので、彼らが植えたのかなと思いながら。
      西に夕焼け、振り返るとお月さま。写真を撮っていて、ふと気が付くと真っ暗に、そして周りにはだれもいなくなっておりました。急いで道路まで走りましたよ。

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  15. ほていあおいはやはり水とあうんですね。私も同じ場所に行きましたが、こんなに花が広がってるとは思わず花畑の真ん中でばかり撮ってました。労を惜しまず歩いてgood pointをさがすと、こんなにも生き生きした花達にあえるのですね。輝く花の多さに圧倒されてしまい、ただただ感動してました。

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    1. 昼過ぎから夜までいましたよ。帰るときは真っ暗で、家に帰ったらくたくたでした。もう一度夕焼けが撮りたくて2日後に行きましたが、チャンスには恵まれませんでした。
      写真はうまく撮れませんでしたが、夕焼けの一時間ぐらい前に、トンボが大量に水たまりの上を飛びはじめ、羽が金色に光ってきれいでした。夢中で写真を撮りましたが、ほとんど写っていませんでした。

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    2. やはり熱意と根性がなければいい写真は撮れないわけですね。もちろんそれだけでは足りませんが、少なくともそれがあればシャッターチャンスは巡ってくるのですね。ほんとに毎回すばらしい写真を見せていただいてありがとうございます。
      農業政策、矛盾は一杯です。実家の近くでも休耕田の利用方法を工夫している所もありますが、放置されたままの所もありせっかくの田がもったいない思いです。

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    3. 食べ物を粗末にするな、という前の問題ですね。
      休耕地とか放置された畑を合わせると埼玉県とか東京都の面積になると聞いたことがあります。本当にもったいないですね。

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  16. “But, many countries in the world are suffering severe shortage of food. At such a time, is it right thing to do to practice the rice paddy reduction policy?”

    I’m so ambivalent about this question probably like you, snowwhite. As far as I know, Japanese farming and dairy farming is very small-sized and privately done. They take care a lot and the quality of products is very high and consequently the price is high. In the countries suffering food shortage, not high quality but high quantity is required. If their rice is dumped, Japanese farmers can’t make a living. Many vegetables can’t grow in the fileld which once was a paddy, and besides, once the paddy was transformed into vegetable field, it’s hard to grow rice again.

    While darkness has fallen on the ground, the sky and its reflections are bright as if implying the Buddha’s Pure Land in the west. I have the same question with red rose. Weren’t you scared of walking to the station?

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    1. The government has given guidance on rice-crop conversion, from rice to soy beans, wheat and so on. When the farmers accept the guidance, they will be given subsidy. According to a report written by a newspaper company in 2009, then already 7 trillion Yen ,7兆円 (our taxes) had been used for the rice reduction policy. What a enormous amount of taxes!!
      I want to write again about rice issues probably in October when it will be in the middle of the harvest.

      一人だと気が付いたときは、ヤバいかなと思いましたよ。

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  18. Spectacular pictures, snowwhite. Amid such beauty, only a thoughtful person like you can stop and ask such a poignant question in the good of the whole world. I hope the government takes notice and mends its ways by taking steps in the right directions. You inspire me with your noble thoughts snowwhite.

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  19. Hello Keiko Such tranquil beauty. I love the night shots and the lighting in the dragonfly photo. Government subsidy here in the US is also an issue.

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  20. Gorgeous captures, Keiko! Politics and government raises many questions for all of us in these times. But who has the answers that we all seek? Hope you enjoy your weekend!

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  21. I too hope the rice farmers don't need to go out of business especially when rice is so much more than food in Japan.

    As always, your photos are stunning works of art!

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  22. I came back, just to admire again the picture of purple flowers. So lovely...

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  23. A stunning selection of photographs. The dragonfly hovering over the water hyacinth is a beauty. Just discovered your blog today Keiko and am now following along. Paul

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  24. such beauty, I taught my students Planting rice is never fun.

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  25. The photographs took my breath away, particularly the pink sky reflection among the hyacinths. Your story and further explanations in the comments is particularly sad with no easy solution. Thank you for sharing.

    Bises,
    Genie

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  26. I always enjoy your photography. Rice is not a major grain in Russian cuisine. However, I appreciate that you can make so many things out of it. Basically, if you have rice in your house, you will always be able to make something.

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  27. こんにちは。休耕田に花を植えているのですか。美しく同時に切ないお話ですね。それも薬師寺跡の礎石が残る所とは。 美しい写真を見ながら読むと心に響くものを感じました。

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  28. les trois dernieres photo sont magnifiques,bravo !

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  29. Your photos are absolutely beautiful!

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  30. Keiko this was a wonderful post....I learned so much. And your photos as always are beautiful.

    The problems of farm subsidies and food shortages are ones that this country deals with too (not so successfully in my opinion, but I don't begin to understand them well) ... I didn't know all this about Japan. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and wonderful pictures.

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