Raising seedlings in the seedling tray
They usually pack the bed soil for the paddy rice into a tray made of polypropylene that is 580 mm long, 280 mm wide, 28 mm deep for young seedlings. The seeds start to germinate in the tray and the farmer prepares them for planting in April.
This farmer is determined to get healthy soil. The Mogami River flows rapidly but the river on the highland is narrow and runs along the Ohu Line, where the soil is healthy. I've heard that this is the soil he uses.
He adds bokashi compost, an organic compost fertilizer that is rich in nutrients, which acts as both a long-term and short-term soil fertilizer that improves the condition of the soil. The bokashi compost is made from oil-cake or rice bran, mixed with soil or rice hulls, and the microorganisms live and ferment the oil-cake or rice bran to turn into compost. The fermentation makes it effective.
The farmer allows the seeds to grow as long as possible and then he would sow them on the bed soil. He uses the seeds which grow plumper and look like a pigeon breast. This farm takes 3 or 4 days to pack the soil and 2 or 3 days to sow the seeds. They prepare over one thousand trays in a span of 7 days or more. I've heard that the tray which contains soil, seeds and water weigh about 5 kg. They prepare about a thousand trays or more. It is a very tough work.
A lack of imagination
Mt. Choukai, visible from the Shonai plain, is also called "Dewa Fuji". Dewa is the ancient name of this area which the Shonai plain is part of and Fuji because this mountain resembles Mt. Fuji and is a stratovolcano 2,236 meters above the sea, located over the border between Akita and Yamagata prefectures. People still say that when an old man planting rice seeds appear on the surface of Mt. Chokai, the melting snow that takes the shape of an old man planting, this means the time for farmers to work on the field has come. Most people can see the figure from anywhere in Shonai plain.
And Shonai plain is surrounded by Dewa Sanzan, the sacred three mountains including Mt. Gassan, Mt. Haguro, Mt. Yudono and other mountains. On the way to the summit of the mountains, there are many viewing spots where you can look across the plain spread beneath your eyes with thousands of rice fields that look like a lot of tatami mats.
I think these facts are actually very important for the Shonai region farming. People will know the right time to start farming and because they are able to see all the fields on the Shonai plain, they are able to determine the volume of work by looking at the field.
Sense of touch, I use this phrase as the farmer understands things through their sensory organs, not through the web or documents or others abstract reason, this plays an important role to give Shonai farming a distinctive and outstanding grasp of the overall situation and stability from the ancient times and I think the sense of touch provides a certain sound infrastructure of producing foods.
When we work for a long time in the business world where everything is expressed with a digital code, we don't have the sense of uprooting a tree or handling a tool, or getting his hands dirty in mud. We lose the imaginative faculty towards the reality of work. Nevertheless we are able to survive, thanks to the developed network of communication and transportation.
During winter, we often hold meetings with the farmer about the business operations such as managing inventory, plans for planting, pricing, distribution, accounting, labor and other important issues. Once the work in the field starts, the farm becomes very busy immediately and we realize that we are not able to help them in the field. When I looked at some photos of the farmers working taken by a local of Yamagata prefecture, I felt like they were telling me “a seedling tray weighs about 5 kg. and this is a very crucial fact”.
When I walked on a long footpath, along the Hibiya Street, I felt a strong wind blowing against me. The wind came to me pounding on the concrete surface. Suddenly I remembered the wind I felt in the Shonai plain, which had the fragrance of black soil as if it passed through the black soil of the plain once. I tried to walk through the side of the Imperial Palace and along the Aoyama Avenue, passing over the Tama River.
Hibiya street, the Imperial Palace and Aoyama Avenue are in the urban area. The Tama River is in the suburb and the Shonai plain in Yamagata Prefecture is in the rural area, very far from the urban area Tokyo.
All these areas are on the same ground, but the wind that blows in these areas have their own characteristic, their distinctive smell and their own atmosphere.
That means the ground or earth is the same but the wind is different. I understand this very clearly.