Have you ever heard of Rice Paddy Art? It is a unique kind of art that uses perspective drawing and multiple colored varieties of rice-plant as paint on a rice-field canvas.
I first saw rice paddy art on the internet and was desperate to see it, but due to my lack of knowledge of traveling Japan at that time, I didn’t have the confidence to set-out on my own. Then, after living in Sendai (the biggest city in the Tohoku area) for a while, my friends persuaded me to visit some Rice paddy field in Iwate prefecture. I was so surprised because I hadn’t realised how close it was, and how easy it was to get there!
Here are some pictures of the rice paddy art I was lucky to visit in Iwate:
Actually, at this time of year (late July ~August ~September) there are some amazing examples of Rice Paddy Art dotted around each prefecture of Tohoku (Miyagi, Akita, Aomori, Yamagata, Fukushima, and Iwate). The art comes to life in summer as the rice plants grow and changes colour as the season changes to autumn. The most famous spot to see it is in Inakadate village located in Aomori prefecture. Last year the theme was ‘Sanada Maru’ – a very popular period drama about some samurai who ruled in Tohoku.
Now, you may wonder what on earth inspired these tiny country towns and villages to start making these larger-than-life creations? Starting in 1993, special tours to experience rice planting were a popular attraction, giving visitors from the city the opportunity to experience traditional rice farming done by hand. The next progression of this activity was to create art at the same time as planting the rice, in order to attract more tourists to the Aomori countryside in Summer and early Autumn.
So just how do they create these amazingly detailed pictures? First, they need to decide on a design, draw a sketch of the design and revise it’s scale to create three-dimensional perspective drawing. After that, different varieties of rice plant are chosen to use in the design. The most often used varieties include a dark purple rice called murasakiine, a yellow rice called kiine, a local Aomori rice called Tsugaru Roman, a red rice, yukiasobi, which actually has white leaves and the red-tipped iwaiakane. You might be surprised to know that the colours of each artwork are entirely natural – no chemical agents are used here! Some people think that the art is created by dying the rice with paint or chemical agents.
Here are some amazing aerial images:
I personally am astounded by the extreme effort required to successfully complete this art – and they get bigger, better and more elaborate every year!!. Not only do they have to complete the tedious task of planting millions of small seeds across a huge rice paddy, they need serious control and concentration to ensure that each seed is placed correctly, because this kind of art cannot be easily edited after planting is complete (of course)! Due to its beauty and uniqueness, rice paddy art has attracted crowds of both Japanese and international visitors – more than 100,000 people every year!
I can assure you that the creativity of each elaborate art work is so worth the trip to see it!
Here are a few more examples from previous years in Inakadate Village, Aomori. I wonder what the design will be this year?!
Fly from Haneda Airport to Aomori (one hour and 15 minutes), then take a bus to Hirosaki (60 minutes). From Hirosaki, take the Kōnan Tetsudo Line to Inakadate Station (24 minutes)
Take the Shinkansen (bullet train) from Tokyo to Shin-Aomori station (three hours, 37 minutes), then take the Ōu Line to Hirosaki (36 minutes) and then on to Inakadate Station.
There are two Tambo Art fields, and both are about a five-minute taxi ride from Inakadate Station. The first field is on the east side of Inakadate City Hall, and the second field is located at the “Michi no Eki” at Inakadate Yayoi no Sato. During the peak period (July ~ August) there are usually free shuttle-wagons that leave the station and visit both sites.
Rice Paddy Art 1: Observation site
Rice Paddy Art 2: Observation site
If you plan to travel to many different places in Tohoku and want to enjoy the beauty of the countryside, you can rent a car (highly recommended). I think Tohoku is perfect for a road-trip because the traffic is not congested and you can discover lots of unique places along the way!
Opening Hours: May 30 to Jul. 15 and Sep. 1 to Oct. 10 ~ 09:00-17:00 (Jul. 6 – Aug. 31 ~ 08:30-18:00)
Closed: Oct.11 to May 29
Best season: August ~ September
Fee: Adults: 300 yen, elementary school students: 100 yen
Places to stay:
Since there are hotels in Inakadate village, you can stay nearby in Kuroishi/Hirosaki Cities. Here I found some interested hotel/hot springs.
- Minamida Onsen Hotel Appleland (15 minutes walk from Hiraka Station on Konan railway’s Konan line) : This hotel is famous for all-year-round apple-bath hot spring which is said to be good for your skin (as well as hilarious and fun). You can mentally and physically relax from the sweet aroma of floating apples. Yukata are available for guests to wear during their stay.
Facilities: Communal bath, open-air bath and sauna