The country where rice grows and ripens well, that is Shonai plain in September.
Since the start of the year until June, we did not have any typhoons but after July, a lot of typhoons hit the Tohoku Region in August and September. Because these months are significant for the rice to ripen, in Tokyo, I was worried if everything would go well in the rice fields in Shonai district. In spite of all the typhoons that hit, I heard there were no problems from the people of Shonai themselves. I convinced myself to trust their judgement about the weather and respect the boldness/courage of the farmer. I am waiting for the harvest day these days.
It is the ripening period of rice in Shonai. In some fields, rice reaping has already started. The reason why Dewa Shonai Tokusan hasn’t started rice reaping yet is because they use the organic farming method or special farming (a way of farming with less agricultural chemicals and less chemical fertilizer), or because of the characteristic of the soil which is different from other fields.
The rice field in Shonai have turned to a beautiful color. They say they have fine crops. Everywhere, we see the traditional method of drying rice in the air under the sun called the “kui-gake” method. Locusts and dragonflies seem to resign themselves to their own time passing and wait till their last moment after all their task is complete.
The nature of Shonai people
I think we can say that people who live in a place where food is enough are calm and generous and the place is generally peaceful since the old days.
I had a lot of chances to meet many people during this time, a farmer, a fisherman, a cook, a shopkeeper, a public servant, a pilgrim’s lodge owner and so on. They welcomed us as if we were acquaintances for a hundred years, though this was our first time to meet them. Even if we often visited them without making a prior appointment, they were very kind and accommodating. They also welcomed other Shonai people in the same way. When I saw the locals talking to each other and I asked if they knew each other, I was surprised to hear that they just met for the first time. I used to get puzzled and wondered how they can be so accommodating and welcome strangers but now I have gradually adapted this and I have become more approachable and frank with them.
They have what you might call an “open body” as opposed to a “close body” that we have. I mean an “open body” as the sense of physical level which is more natural than the so called open mind or trained mind.
They look at people warmly, though they don’t know them at all, while we can’t talk to a stranger without introducing ourselves, our organization and our position. This is where the big difference comes from!
In the first part of the book, “Yuki wo tsukuru hanashi” (which means a story to make snow) written by Ukichiro Nakaya, there is a passage as follows.
“We all live in a great nature. This nature has an extremely delicate structure throughout. The structure is never a waste and it consists of many beautiful and exquisite parts”.
When I read this passage, I suddenly noticed that this is the root of the disposition of Shonai people. Both hosts and guests, live in this great nature of Shonai region, and they are part of nature and all of them are indispensable friends, which is a sense that is inherent. We belong to an organization such as a company, but they know well that we are part of something bigger, a more universal one.
We often say “you should unleash the potential energy of the local region.”
By saying this, we long to be a part of a big business, that we must get along with people from all over the world, whom we have never met. In this case, we must make a detailed contract and a deal. Of course the deal will give us a lot of rewards, but we must make a lot of sacrifices. I think that we can’t have a job like this here.
This is the time, to learn a lesson from the past and learn a new way for the future. I want to begin in a new way.
We must return the baton to the rice field.
Shonai is a vast fertile region and has a lot of natural harvests. People in Shonai have a wisdom that teaches them that harmony is better than competition. I guess there are many people attracted to this.
Now big cities reign over farming villages as important customers with big purchasing power.
There is a farm on top of the supply chain and from here to a process industry then a warehouse and a truck, then a market and a wholesaler then finally to a store front, they are all on the same rope of the supply chain. And in front of a store, consumers know well that they can buy everything at the lowest price whenever they want. And there is a baton somewhere on the rope except the farm and according to the baton, an agricultural produce is ordered, shipped and delivered to consumers.
But the agricultural produce is a natural plant, a living thing. It has its own season, and occasionally it has a poor harvest. To say “we buy everything at the lowest price whenever we want” is an extreme request to agricultural produce. If farmers make an effort to accept such requests, they must introduce artificial things to nature. If so, the effort might possibly result in the destruction of nature that has an extremely delicate and beautiful structure throughout. Rationalization means to exclude something that human doesn’t understand from accounting records, and efficiency means to hasten exhaustion and death. If so, I’m afraid that humans will destroy the natural balance and as a result have trouble producing food in the near future.
As for wild animals, some die and their species survive avoiding starvation. But humans can’t use such brute force. So we at least should loosen the power to draw the rope gently, suitable for plants i.e. agricultural crops as creatures.
If we lose the wet rice fields in our region, we could never leave them as wasteland.
Then, will we turn the empty lot where wet rice fields ever existed to gardens, parks, houses or factories? I can’t imagine.
We should return the baton to the rice fields. I felt it strongly during this trip to Shonai region.
By the way, when rice reaping begins, the surrounding fields have already lost quite a lot of water. I don’t know if it is the same way every year, but this is because they stopped the water flow from the source, the deepest point in the mountains where the staff went to.
A number of staffs go along the narrow mountain trails and they drop rocks into the stream by hand to stop the water from flowing. In the remote mountain area close to the water source, in summer, the people irrigate and in autumn people stop the flow of water. This is the way to control water, and rice cultivation has continued from generation to generation. I don’t know if all farmers recognize such endeavor to control water close to the source, but I am convinced that they perceive it. If they don’t perceive it, their way of life living in harmony rather than competition could not prosper.
This time, there was a small stream beside a rice field, so the photographer walked along upstream and downstream.
We understand clearly the water flow map, including A class river Aka-gawa, Fujishima-gawa river flowing into the Mogami-gawa river, and Konno-gawa river that is the branch of Fujishima-gawa river, and running from the foot of Mt. Gassan. The fields near Dewa Shonai Tokusan farm are put between Aka-gawa and Konno-gawa or Fujishima-gawa river, fields are surrounded by a rich water system.
Water is very common fortunately in Japan, so sometimes we take nature for granted.
But water has a unique nature that dissolves many things and flow everywhere. Scientists say it is very special. Though the molecular weight of water is lighter than air, water stays liquid in normal temperature and it dissolve many substances. I’ve heard that these are the two major characteristics of water.
And the water goes around the fields near the farm like a network, much like blood vessels around cells. Water brings nourishment into the fields and removes unnecessary substances from fields.
We are often told Japan is a country that doesn’t have enough natural resources, but Japan has an abundant water supply. Besides, there is plenty of water on the snowcapped mountains. It is that water that already has a big potential energy. Therefore we can say that Shonai plain area also has water that contains high energy.
Walking slowly, we see various things.
This is the theme from the “Shonai Life Village Report”.