Harvesting the rice in Tsukuba- September 3rd 2010
By Avi Landau
In Tsukuba, since it hardly ever snows, we rarely get to experience the thrill of waking up in the morning , drawing the curtains, and finding the mundane late autumn scenery of the previous day transformed into a new world- dazzlingly bright and COMPLETELY WHITE. Still, there are at least two times a year in which we too, those of us who live in Japan`s NO-SNOW ZONES, might get a jolt of surprise by a sudden and dramatic change in the landscape.
Harvesting the rice in Tsukuba`s Saiki neighborhood- September 3rd 2010
The first, and by far the more impressive for its beauty, is in early May when the dull, brown and straw colored expanses of lifeless winter fields are suddenly transformed into a glistening WATERWORLD as they are flooded for TAUE- the rice transplantation. ( I have writen about this in detail here:)
The second sudden transformation, and the less endearing one from an aesthetic point of view because it actually brings about a DECREASE in the beauty of the surrounding area, occurs in early or mid-September, when the rice is harvested. For those of us who for FOUR MONTHS have DAY BY DAY watched the sparse looking seedlings, which at first stood limply in the water, grow into lush, adundant fields, first a deep green and then a heavy-headed yellow, always rolling gracefully with the breezes, it comes as as shock to one day turn around the bend expecting to enjoy this comforting scene, but instead finding that your favorite valley has turned into a landscape of STUBBLE, stretching out into the distance.
Now you see it......
....now you dont!
Two beautiful HIGAN BANA (spider lilies) blooming along a shady path in Tsukuba`s Higashi-Oka
This is the sort of surprise I remember experiencing last September.While heading towards the University, walking along one of my usual paths which takes me through a woods and then down into Higashi-Oka and Saiki`s (two neighborhoods in Tsukuba City) rice growing district ,which lines both sides of the Hanamuro River. While deep in the wooded area, I noticed that the spider lilies ( Higan-Bana), symbols of mid-autumn had sprung up in the shadows (see above). Crouching down to appreciate this amazing flower, a deep rumbling of machinery gave away the scene which would soon unfold before me. I emerged from the wood at the top a ridge looking down on the valley, giving me a view of the farmers finishing up the last of the reaping.
I chatted with the farmers, who all said that this years harvest was SO-SO( ma-ma, in Japanese)- maybe better than last years cold damaged rice haul, but nothing compared to the BUMPER CROP of two years ago. They attributed this to the extremely hot weather we had in August. In fact it was the hottest summer since Meiji 9, which I think is 1877! Still things looked good and everyone seemed reasonably happy.( Read about the crop from two years ago and more about harvesting rice here: )
Also as an effect of the unusually hot weather the prices of many vegetables have skyrocketed. I have heard housewives complaining alot, especially about the cost of lettuce and cabbage ( which more than doubled over the summer).
One type of produce which has been positively affected by this year`s steamy summer temperatures is watermelon, which seem to be even juicier and sweeter than they usually are in Ibaraki.
Harvesting the rice in Tsukuba`s Matsushiro neighborhood
Anyway, a big OTSUKARESAMA (thank you for your efforts) to Tsukuba`s rice farmers. The temporary loss of the beautful scenery is more than adequately compensated for by the thought of a bowl of Ibaraki grown SHINMAI (new rice).
Rice straw tied up in bundles and set out to dry- Tsukuba 2010
Some farmers burn their fields after the harvest- helping got make September a very smoky month!