Sunday, June 21, 2015

米 Kome Part III

Living in Katsura I see things people in the heart of Kyoto don't see.  Situated along the Katsura River it is a semi-rural community with small farms occupying as much real-estate as homes and businesses.  This means I see farmers at work doing their thing.  I see the land tilled, seeds sewn and the crops harvested.  I imagine for the average Japanese person this is terribly mundane.  But for a non-native city boy it is all very interesting.

When I arrived last September the kome (rice) was ready for harvest (see my post from October 18).  I watched through the winter and spring as these fallow fields were plowed and harrowed over and over.  Small sections of the less than one-acre plots were planted with different vegetables: cabbage, beans, etc., but mostly the land lay bare.

At the end of May something curious happened.  Following days of intense ploughing, the fields were suddenly flooded with water.  There is a complex network of little channels that seem to criss-cross every street in Katsura.  I assumed these functioned as kinds of storm drains.  This may be.  But they also function as an irrigation system diverting water from the river to the rice paddies.

Rice seedlings at planting
The fields, now under about 6 inches (15cm) of water, turned a bright, almost neon green.  I couldn't determine if this was a natural occurring phenomenon or an agricultural additive.  The planting came next and was remarkably swift.  Trays of rice seedlings were fed through a small jet-ski-shaped tractor pushed along by the farmer in his tall rubber boots.  This machine saves him from the back breaking labor of sticking the seedlings into the murky water by hand one at a time.  It also makes for incredibly straight and perfectly spaced rows of rice plants.

The frogs arrive about the same time as the rice seedlings.  As soon as the sun sets each day they begin singing.  It is a hilarious chorus that fills the warm nights interrupted only by a passing dog.  Where did they come from I wonder.  And where do they go during the day?  I've yet to see one of these raucous amphibians.

Rice plants after 3 weeks

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