Every year, more than 1.5 million hectares of rice fields are cultivated in Japan. But in Inadakate, the paddy fields are extra special.
For more than ten years, the little town of Inakadate, located in the administrative district of Aomori in northern Japan, has transformed its rice fields into works of art by planting different coloured rice. And every year, between July and August, the giant drawings hiding in the fields are revealed to the town’s residents and passing tourists.
Tanbo art, (which literally means "art in the fields") has made Inadakate so famous that even the local primary school has begun customising its own rice field. Today, tanbo art has spread to hundreds of different places across Japan.
The Mona Lisa. Photo courtesy of Inakadate town hall.
Time Lapse video of rice paddy art
Tanbo art in Inadakate: Photos
Photos courtesy of the Inakadate town hall
"We wanted to emphasise our heritage"
Takatoshi Asari works for Inadakate’s department of industry, agriculture and tourism. He is in charge of the tanbo art projects.
Since 1987 we have organised various activities which have attempted to revitalize our village and build a sense of community. But it was in 1993 that we first launched tanbo art. From 1993 to 2001 we always used the same design, but since 2001 we have changed the design every year.
Another reason why we were keen to set up this event is because a historic site containing traces of a rice field that dates back to the Yayoi period (from 300BC to approximately 300AD) was discovered in our village. We wanted to emphasise this heritage by using the different varieties of rice which can be found in our region (5 varieties in different colours).
"1200 people were present at this year’s rice planting"
Every year we welcome participants from all over the country. This year there were 1,200 (including the villagers and the local council). The seeds were planted on 30th May (all in one day) and the results were able to be seen from mid-July to mid-August. On 3rd October we’ll begin the harvest, and then next year we’ll start the process all over again.
À droite, Napoléon à cheval. Photo : Mairie d'Inakadate
Each year, the "Inakadate development committee chooses the design. The committee is made up of the mayor, farmers, and members of the chamber of commerce, as well as municipal employees and villagers. Then, a fine art teacher from the school for deaf children is in charge of committing the design to paper. Finally, employees of the town council mark the edges of the drawings by planting 30cm-long reeds in the virgin fields.
"In 2010, the drawing represents a fight between two mythological characters"
As we use two fields that have a total surface area of 1.5 hectares and are separated by a road, we usually do two different drawings. However, this year there is only one drawing which represents a fight between two mythological characters (Benten et Ushiwakamaru), one on each field. The fields belong to an inhabitant of the village who rents them to us for several months.
In 2009, 170,000 people from all over the world paid us the honour of visiting Inakadate. This year we expect over 120,000 visitors." "
Photo courtesy of the Inakadate town hall