It cannot be overstated how important rice is to Japan, and once you spend a few days here you will see. Rice fields are abound. Some are large, some are small. Beyond any first impressions looking from a train or a car, your understanding of this importance will really set in when you eat.
Rice is used in so many products. I will not even try to catalog that. You can find out more here if you like. But when you eat, you’ll probably have white rice, or perhaps melting mochi in a hot bowl of soup. If you’re fortunate, you’ll have delicately made sweets with tea, or better yet, saké, all of which needs rice.
Before the harvest, when rice is cut and bundled, is when you see people toiling to beat time, the daylight, or the coming frost. And when you see the standing bundles of rice, you almost feel like they’re people, waiting to be taken home. Rather eerie at night under a lit moon.
Japan is a country of tidiness and detail. Space is not a large commodity as the population is restricted to roughly 25% of the land. The rest is too mountainous. It is in the Japanese tenacity for detail you see little touches which amount to a lot. It can be maddening on some levels, but with food and crafts it is wondrous.
I was first drawn to Japanese rice fields by their perfectly straight rows, or the tiny little paths in between each neighboring rice field. But I really was drawn to the this manner of bundling recently. Despite Japan’s obvious modernity, seeing this done so naturally, perhaps traditionally, was refreshing.
The convenient use of the rice stalk itself to bundle the whole was quite natural, I thought. It may not seem like a big deal, but when you pass uncut fields one day, then the next they’re suddenly populated but these erected bundles of rice, you are struck a little. It must have taken a bit of effort! If you’re like me, you would ask yourself how this occurred so quickly while making use of the knot on not only one, but a multitude of bundled souls.
PS…if you eat a bowl of rice in Japan, remember not to leave a single grain in the bowl. Some people would perceive that as rude, or wasteful. Harvesting rice is usually a group effort. Perhaps you will appreciate even more the effort that went into bringing you that humble bowl.
純米吟醸酒 (じゅんまいぎんじょうしゅ) jun・mai・gin・jou・shu. This saké was made only with pure water and rice. This means no additives or brewer’s alcohol. This particular one was quite dry…and went really well with sashimi!
This is saké. This variety is called 純米吟醸酒 (じゅんまいぎんじょうしゅ) jun・mai・gin・jou・shu.