Rice is synonymous with Japan, people cannot think of Japan or Japanese food without thinking of rice. However you may not think of rice, and then think of works of art. But in Japan, rice can be art.
The village of Inakadate in Aomori is a small area, with a population of about 8,000 people and very little tourism. The people of this area wanted to revitalise their towns and village and get tourism going again. Through archeological work being conducted in Inakadate they found that rice had been grown in the region for over 2,000 years! As this was a historic aspect of the town the villagers decided that they would use the medium of growing rice to create a draw for tourists. They used the rice paddies and different varieties of both modern and heirloom rice to create works of art.
These works of art feature figures from Japanese mythology, iconic Japanese works of art and even pop culture, such as manga figures. They even use it for advertising too and messages of good will towards North East Japan.
These rice paddies are enormous and the feat of producing such intricate pictures seems impossible, so how do the villagers do it? The villagers all meet together before the spring planting and decide what they are going to create. Sometimes they use computer software to work out the pattern and design before hand. When it comes to the planting the villagers rope off the different colours they need for the image. Then hundreds of people come and help with the planting. Each different strain of rice used grows a different coloured stem, which is how they get the varied patterns in their art. In the growing season, the rice plants are shades of green, but before they are ready to harvest all the rice plants go to browns and gold, which again highlight the artwork. In order to see the artwork more, clearly, the local government built a mock castle towers so visitors could climb to see the art from a great viewpoint. There is now even a dedicated train station for the rice viewing. Then, when it is time to harvest, the rice is used to feed the village. This is truly recyclable and environmentally friendly art!