水田 suiden—rice field

My colleague Mr Hattori has a farm. Last month he spent one weekend planting rice. He has about 1 hectare (10,000 square metres) of rice fields, from which he expects a yield of around 4 tonnes to be harvested in September. He proudly explained to me that while brown rice (genmai) is 30% polished, and normal white rice is 60% polished, his family’s rice is 70% polished. So I guess it is super-white rice. The variety he grows is kin-hikari, which is typical of Kyoto prefecture.

There are lots of rice fields in our local area. During the past month, they were flooded with water and then planted with rice seedlings, before the start of the rainy season. The houses across the road back onto a rice-field, which has become home to hundreds of frogs. The collective sound of the frogs is just amazing, especially at night; hard to believe that such small animals can be so loud!

This is what the rice-field looked like last month, before it was flooded.

Then, at the start of June, I noticed that it had been flooded, in preparation for planting:

There is a dense network of irrigation and drainage channels throughout the area, with sluice gates like this that allow the water to be directed into the field.

The rice seedlings are delivered neatly packed in trays, ready to be planted by machine:

Each field has a concrete ramp, or “slipway” to allow access for the tractor. I only got one shot of the planting in action, and it’s from the distance, so unfortunately you can’t see it very clearly:

The farmer mounts the trays of rice seedlings on a device at the rear of the tractor, that somehow takes the seedlings and plugs them into the mud at set intervals.

This is what our local field looked like just after planting, with neat rows of rice seedlings:

Most rice in Japan is grown on relatively small holdings, and increasingly by older people as the younger generations have moved off the land and sought more profitable work. There is a lot of hard labour involved, notably in maintaining the aze, the waterproof mud field boundaries or levees, which have to be weeded and restored every year before flooding. For this field, now surrounded by roads and houses, there is no aze to maintain.

Note on the word of the day:

水田 suiden literally means “water field”, what is often referred to in English as a paddy field. These two 1st-grade kanji are familiar to beginner learners of Japanese.

I discovered while writing this post that, by coincidence, the first character in 玄米 genmai (brown rice) is the same as the first character in 玄関  genkan (hallway), which was the subject of yesterday’s post. I’m not familiar with this character and don’t know what semantic connection (if any) there is between these two words.

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