Japanese Farmers Plant Specific Strains of Rice to Grow Colorfully Illustrated Fields


Japanese farmers and artists joined forces to turn rice fields into art.

About three years ago, the residents of Inakadate, a rural rice-growing village, pioneered ways to attract tourism and revitalize the economy. City officials saw a large group of primary school students planting rice fields by hand and came up with an idea: the art of rice fields!

They brought together local artists and farmers, and hired thousands of volunteers to plant seven different colors of rice based on pre-made sketches in a huge color-by-number project.

Thousands of tourists visit Inakadate village in Aomori Prefecture, Japan every year. People from all over the world flew to Japan to watch the grand Tanbo art event in the Inakadate.

This annual event is held from June to October and is considered the main attraction of the city. But what is Tanbo Art? Tanbo is the Japanese term for rice fields.

Every year, when the rice starts to grow, the largest rice field in the village becomes a spectacular canvas. The intricate design also appeared in the huge rice fields, which surprised tourists. Inakadate is famous for the art of painting and is the only place in the world to show this kind of art.

The art of rice fields began in 1993, when farmers used purple and yellow rice to depict Mount Swami. This is part of their efforts to attract more tourists to this city. At first, few tourists came to see the rice field map, which is a geometric illustration of Japanese mountains.

The villagers realized that to attract more tourists, more than simple illustrations were needed, so they created more complex drawings and added more colors to get a brighter effect.

Since then, they have made the biggest breakthrough. In 2003, they decided to paint “Mona Lisa” in the rice field. This project is a bit ambitious, and some local residents are not sure whether it is possible to portray a character of non-Japanese descent. Lisa’s plan was executed, and the result triggered a different reaction. Some people appreciate the entertaining nature of rice field paintings, while others think that the perspective is not enough.

However, due to the controversial version of Leonardo da Vinci’s famous painting, the city quickly attracted worldwide interest. And agreed to pay more attention to Japanese characters and local folklore.

Every spring, the village holds a meeting to determine the theme of the annual ARTE Tango event. Once the theme is determined, the local art teacher will work with a research company to create a digital model. According to the plan, farmers will use a marker to draw a pattern in the field.

Planting starts in late spring, so rice crops can be grown from May to October. As the plants began to grow, 12 rice plants were planted to turn the field into a colorful painting.

The rice field art is exhibited every year. Some drawings were: Napoleon (2009), Marilyn Monroe (2013), Star Wars (2015) and Gone with the Wind (2015). But the 2017 depictions of Momotaro and Yamata no Orochi vs Susanoo-no-Mikoto may be the most complicated picture we have seen so far.



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