It's a photo of a rice field and farm - quite appropriate considering Ohtawara literally translates into Big - Rice Field - Field (Oh-Ta-Wara).
Not surprisingly, no matter where I stood in Ohtawara, I could with only a very slight exaggeration throw a rock in any direction and hit either a rice field or a 7-11 (there really are a lot of 7-11's around).
Rice fields are essentially rice paddies... flooded land, with the watered fields discouraging weeds, though they can still grow so farmers are constantly hunched over plucking weeds on a daily basis.
What is very cool, however is that during the Spring and Summer, no matter what time of the evening you travel, you can hear the croaking of tiny frogs. It was enough to inspire me to write a couple of short stories involving a frog (and a rat) that I quickly turned into a 200-page novella for tweens... should any publisher ever be so inclined to inquire about it, it's called The Adventures Of Simon And Billy. I think four people have ever read it, and all seemed to like it immensely.
A prominent feature of the rice field id the hunched back. usually belonging to the women who work the fields with their husband or parent, these poor people are so hunched over I don't believe they have seen the sky in decades... and it's too bad, because if they had, they would know, as evidenced from my photo above, that it was going to storm something fierce. I am the Ame Otoko (Rain Man), after all.
Another prominent feature is the number of times I have ridden my bicycle past a field and seen someone taking a pee in it. Just luck, I suppose.... but is that what gives Japanese rice its unique flavor?
Japan grows some 11 million metric tonnes of rice per year. The Japanese variety of rice is known as Japonica, and is a short-grain rice that when cooked is sticky - an important feature for the people of Japan who utilize chopsticks (o-hashi) for eating.
In fact, I was told that the Japanese eat rice much the same way Western cultures like the US and Canada eat bread, so it is not unusual to see the Japanese eat rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner as a part of their meal.
Now... as I am sure we all know, rice begins as brown rice (genmai - 玄米), which, IF polished by a machine, is then sold as white rice (hakumai - 白米).
How do the Japanese eat their rice? Well, a few examples include: plain rice; rice topped with natto (fermented soy beans); nori (dry seaweed sheets); sushi; fried; ochazuke (green tea and rice); sake (rice wine); rice vinegar; senbei (rice cracker snacks) and mochi and agemochi (a snack made from deep frying mochi, a sticky rice treat that is rice beaten to a pulp and heated up so that it has the consistency of a thick marshmallow. You can read about the mochi making process HERE in a blog I wrote a couple of years ago.
Wow... I sure wrote a lot, considering I originally had no clue what I was going to write 30 minutes ago. Sorry.
Anyhow... Ohtawara sure is a pretty little city, isn't it?