Author Archives: nhase2013

Rice Farming in Japan

Hello, my name is Naoya Hase and I teach at Kwansei Gakuin University.  I know this is a place for my students, but Bachmann-sensei allowed me to share my article this time, so here I am.

Today I would like to write about rice farming in Japan.  Please don’t get me wrong!  I’m not trying to start a political debate related to Transpacific Partnership (TPP) or Free Trade Agreement (FTA).

As you may know, rice is part of the traditional Japanese diet and some people including my younger daughter eat rice for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.  Not only is it a main source of nutrition in the Japanese family but rice has always meant more throughout the history of Japan, especially in the Japanese traditional religion of Shintoism.  There are many rituals surrounding rice and rice farming.  For example, Niinamesai (新嘗祭) is a religious ceremony where the Japanese Emperor offers sake made from newly harvested rice to the Ise Shrine.  Also, everywhere in Japan people hold Akimatsuri or autumn festivals at local Shinto shrines and thank god for the good harvest of the season, especially rice.

I know Japanese farming doesn’t compare with that in the US in terms of its scale.  When my family and I lived in the state of Washington a number of years ago, we had a chance to visit a small beautiful coastal town named Port Angeles, Washington. There we happened to find a Kubota dealer, a Japanese company which sells farming machines like tractors.  I was surprised to find exactly the same model of tractor that my father owned then.  I said to myself, “Hmmm, maybe we are not so bad.  Maybe we can compete with American farmers!”  When I approached the machine to take a close look at it, I quickly found out that it was not a farming tractor but a lawn mower!  “Does this mean our rice fields are about the size of American front yards?” I said to myself!

My family owns about one hectare (about 2½ acres) of farmland, which is about the average in our farming community on Awaji Island located in the Japan Inland Sea off the coast of Kobe.  My grandfather was a full-time farmer and it was about my father’s generation that people started to become part-time farmers by getting another job during the week and then spending busy weekends working on the farm.  My father is an example of this change.  He is a retired school teacher and now at the age of 86 he still works on the farm (see attached photo).  Unfortunately he is getting a little weak and now I will soon have to decide what I will do with the farming tradition that my family has maintained for generations.  Maybe I will teach one day per week at college and spend the rest of the week on the farm.  That will be a wonderful life!s-CIMG0060

If you have a chance to visit Japan, you are always welcome to stay at my parents’ place and help us on the farm.  Maybe it’s like mowing the lawn at your house!  Of course, I’m very much looking forward to seeing the large-scale American farms when I visit Iowa next spring.

Resources:

• RICE: It’s more than food in Japan. 

• Japan as a rice culture? Not so quick, says anthropologist.