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Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Planting Rice in 1904

This past Tuesday, August 28, 2012, my wife and I celebrated our 11th wedding anniversary. While things have been truly rocky for the past three years, we had a very nice night.

We had Japanese food (me with my rare una don - eel on rice) and some barbequed ikka (squid), she with a beef bento box with some mackerel sushi and tempura, miso soup and salad.

I bought her some expensive Canadian chocolates, she... she outdid herself... purchasing a set of bakelite Stori-view glasses and film... it's like a version of Viewmaster... plus a set of comedic magic lantern sterographic photo cards from 1908) with one additional card - seen above.

From the Notes of Travel, No. 8, copyright, 1904 by Underwood & Underwood, this is card #74 entitled: Ploughing flooded ground for rice-planting--north from main highway at Uji, near Kyoto, Japan.

Really. How cool is that?

Combining my love of history with my love of things Japanese with my love for knowledge and love for new hobbies - all in one 7.0-inch wide  x 3.5-inch high photo card.

For your edification, here is what the back of that card says:

This is the way the farmer begins working for a new crop of Japan's "staff of life". The ground must be made into soft mud, so this field is surrounded with a lower ridge like that you see yonder converting it into a sort of pan with low sides. Water was let into it from an irrigation canal a few weeks ago and the ground was thoroughly soaked. Now this peasant has harnessed his bull and is stirring up the muddy surface, turning under the stubble of the old crop and opening the soil to sun and air. The seed rice is sown in beds and will be transplanted in this field only after the delicate green shoots are a foot or more high. The flooding will be repeated at intervals during the growing season, for rice, you remember, is really an aquatic grass; the kind largely grown flourish best in water or soft mud. Only when the harvest is near will the ground be allowed to dry. the stalks are cut by hand with a sickle, men and women working together both in the reaping and threshing which follows.  The grain is the main food of the people hereabouts and the straw is all thriftily put to use, It makes mats like those you see yonder protecting choice tea-plants from the over-ardent sun; it makes thatched roofs for the farmhouses and sheds.
That large building at the end of the field is a tea store-house. Notice the ventilators up under the eaves of the tiled roof. This region is famous all over Europe and the East for the fine quality of the teas raised by small farmers. One kind, called "Jewelled Dew" brings eight dollars a pound. It is all picked carefully by hand, usually by women and young girls, and the curing is done over pans of charcoal.
The blue-and-white cotton towel or kerchief tied over that man's head is the customary wear of Japanese farmers when about to work.

Pretty interesting stuff, eh?

Since I lived in Ohtawara-shi (Ohtawara City), Tochigi-ken (Tochigi Prefecture), Japan, I learned a bit about rice farming, as the city name literally translates to 'big-rice field-field'. There are a lot of rice fields in Ohtawara. A lot lot.

I can tell you that as of 1993 - 89 years after this stereographic card was made, aside from the use of a bull, rice farming techniques had not changed at all... and even now, I am unsure if farmers use a bull or not to till the ground.

Andrew Joseph


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