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August is peak summer season in Japan.  We can look forward to some of the most spectacular fireworks displays and festivals in the world, ...

The Beauty of Shizukuishi!

The month of May is when some breweries plant their rice stalks, so I decided since it was Golden Week to head up to Iwate Prefecture to take part in my bi-annual rice planting work.  I enjoy the manual labor of planting individual seedlings in neat rows two at a time.  It's back breaking work, but it's fun as hell.  Watch the video of the Akita Shinkansen passing by our rice field.  It's so close!

In the picture above is the Akita Shinkansen passing our rice terrace.  So close you could touch it.  People were poking their heads through the window when they saw me, some in awe.  No visit to Japan would be complete without taking part in a rice planting event.   This one was epic.

The rice that was planted is called Miyama Nishiki, a true sakamai ( sake rice) which has been used to make a number of great world-class sake.   Think Nanbu Bijin! ( southern beauty).   This is a very hardy and robust rice grain that has been refined over the years.    First, everybody stands shoulder to shoulder then start.  Each person needs to plant rice seedlings across the whole field.  If you have weak knees or a bad back this work is not for you.  You take 3 seedlings at a time and plant this gently under the soft soil which is composed of chicken manure and fresh mountain water.  It's not smelly at all.  The chickens are fed premium Japanese rice their whole lives.  The whole process from start to finish takes a little over an hour to complete if you have enough people present.  I loved it!

Iwate Prefecture is known for its delicious mountain spring water, wonderful cabbage and blueberries, its amazing sake, incredible natural hot spas, especially the ones high up in the mountains of Iwate.  You must visit this onsen 網張温泉〜 温泉館 薬師の湯〜!  Amiharionsen a 1300-year-old hot spring in the mountains which commands amazing views of QKamura National Park.  In winter you can witness and unforgettable snow scene.   In most picture postcards you'll see Iwate featuring its beautiful mountain ranges with gorgeous snow peaked caps all year round.

The rice this field will yield will be used to make world-class sake and will be sold all over the world, so if you are in Japan during spring, do try it.  No experience in Japan will be complete until you try growing the single most consumed food item in the world, and in Japan you can do it.   Afterwards you can reward yourself in an amazing hot spring.  

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