Enjoyed collaborative work in rice paddies

二枚目の田んぼの稲刈りの様子 A lapse shot of harvesting work in the 2nd rice paddy


ECOPLUS conducted the weekend farming workshop, “ABC in a rice paddy,” harvesting work, on 23-24 September 2023. Under the very unusual hot weather conditions, we learned about nature and agriculture in Shiozawa area, which is the heartland of famous Koshihikari rice, and enjoyed harvesting work by hand in non-chemical rice paddies.


On Saturday, the 23rd, the weather was a bit wet. We went to the top of the hill called “Kwanon-sama” at an altitude of 700 meters to observe the Uonuma Basin. Rice fields with yellow (not yet harvested), brown (just harvested) and green (more than weeks after harvest with weeds) made a beautiful patchwork. The soil of the hill is raised seabed that provides minerals to the snow melted water in the spring. These minerals give the best flavor to the rice grown here.


On Sunday the 24th we started harvesting under a beautiful blue sky. Among the 22 participants, only some had the experience of harvesting with sickles. They cut the bottom part of the rice stalks with sickles, then laid on the edge, crossed the bottom part in X-shape, then bundled two into one with dried straws. This was the most difficult part. Making the X shape makes it easier to hang the sheaf on the pole. One commented, “I understood that not only cutting, but also bundling and hanging must be done in one line.

あぜにシートを広げて「青空食堂」。Lunch on the edge.


By 1 pm, which took 4 hours from the beginning, the harvesting works of two rice paddies were completed. We set lunch place on the edge. Taking rice balls of newly harvested rice by the inn, all of us enjoyed talking about the value of rice and the beautiful environment in this area.



ECOPLUS supported an online “service learning practicum” of Rikkyo university based in Tokyo, on 7 to 10 February, at Minamiuonuma city, Niigata.


In past years, the program had been conducted as three nights and four days actual program staying in the snowy village, Tochikubo, learning the reality of current Japanese society through volunteer works like snow shoveling. However, because of Covid-19, the program of this year was totally conducted on-line.


Students learned the situation of the village with video materials including footage of snow shoveling on the roof, interferes of the locals and introduction of the elementary school in the village with a total of 12 students from 1 to 6 grade. Then, online interactive session was held.


On 8 Feb., the interactive session with the elementary school was held. Kids presented what they learned during the school year with dance and play, then university and elementary students were communicated over the screen.


Also TAKANO Takako, an executive director of ECOPLUS and a visiting professor of Rikkyo university, visited community homes holding her laptop computer for the live interviews to offer the students the reality of the live and farming business in the snowy community.


Despite the hard situation by Covid-19, students looked like deepened understandings about the situation of Japanese society and acquired skills how to investigate current situation of the society and the prospect for the sustainable future.

Snow Camp in Niigata


Jumping into the snow 雪の中に飛び込む

ECOPLUS conducted snow camp from March 20 to 22 in a mountainous village, Shimizu in Niigata, Japan with 12 participants including high school, university students and young adults. TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, Shimizu villagers and 2 other staff supported the program.


Due to extraordinary warm weather condition of this winter, snow was far less than normal. We only had 50cm to 1 meter of snow at the filed where it should have more than 2 meters. However, wet snow and strong wind suddenly came when the participants began to set up the tents, toilets, the fireplace and other facilities.


Finally they set up the living space. Creative boys’ and ladies’ toilets were built in snow decorated with leaves and trees. Cooking was also done on the snow. They cut vegetables on the snow table and made fire on the snow.


On day 2, we enjoyed snow shoe hike under the blue sky. Using traditional Japanese snow shoes, called “Kan-Jiki,” we started walking. On the surface of snow, many animal footprints were spotted. The villager, ABE Kazuyoshi, taught us they were raccoon’s or marten’s. We also found marks of hares, squirrels and others.


During three days, we spent time on the snow; cooking, eating, talking, playing, sleeping, and so on. Villagers offered us a big pod of wild bore stew and wild deer curry and rice. They talked about life and nature now and then. We concentrated our senses on listening, watching, communicating, without being annoyed by modern devices. By simply using time just for living, participants had rich and dense learning experiences.






It was gorgeous to watch so many stars every night. I felt the greatness and severity of the nature.

10th grader, boy

I was surprised to find that so many things could be done with snow. Possibility is infinite only with your creativity.

Male, business person







 ・説明会 2月から5月はじめにかけての随時、エコプラス東京事務所や早稲田大学などで
 ・顔見せ会 5月16日(土)午前10時から正午(予定)
 ・事前キャンプ 6月27日、28日…東京近郊でヤップでの生活をイメージしながらキャンプを行います。

 特定非営利活動法人ECOPLUS info@ecoclub.org
 03-5294-1441  03-5294-1442(fax)

高野代表理事が、Dragonfly Awardを受賞・・・米国でのPBEカンファレンスで

TAKANO Takako Received Dragonfly Award at PBE Conference in Flint, MI

 エコプラスの高野孝子代表理事は、2019年11月8日に米国ミシガン州で開かれたPlace Based Education Conferenceで、長年にわたっての場の教育への取り組みに対して「ドラゴンフライアワード」を受賞しました。1990年代から、アラスカやミクロネシア、日本の農山村などを舞台に、その地で積み重ねられた自然と共生する知恵と技を基礎とした学びを構築してきたことが評価されました。

TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, received “Dragonfly Award” at Place Based Education Conference in Flint, Michigan in the US on November 8, 2019 for her two decades long efforts for the PBE. The organizer of the conference, Mary Whitman of Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, said that TAKANO was chosen because of her efforts on PBE through adventurous expeditions and other activities in many places in the world for long years.

 このカンファレンスは、五大湖の環境保全を図るための教育活動を展開するGreat Lakes Stewardship Initiative(五大湖保全機構)が主催し、今年が7回目。ミシガン州を中心に、ハワイを含む全米各地、さらに日本、カナダ、ドイツなどから小中高の教師、教職課程をもつ大学関係者、行政関係者ら335人が集まりました。さらに発表には、地元の小中高生たちも加わり、11月8、9日の両日にわたって、分科会と全体会を繰り広げる大きな集まりとなりました。

The conference was organized by Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, GLSI, and was the seventh meeting with teachers, researchers, academics, administrators and students from 22 states including Hawaii and representatives from Japan, Canada, and Germany. The 335 registered attendees exchanged active conversations throughout the two days of 8 and 9 November.


Variety of PBE in the US


Nearly 90 sessions throughout the conference reported a variety of examples of PBE in formal and informal education. In Michigan, PBE is now embedded in teacher education and more than 20% students are taking PBE courses, one of the professors said.


In the session, titled “What is a priority?”, TAKANO reported her research on programs in Japanese rural villages and on a Micronesian island. Many program participants from cities acquired foundational learning linked to values through direct contact with the nature, culture and people of the place.



Weeding Workshop at Organic Rice Paddy

35 Students of Waseda Joined the program.


ECOPLUS held organic rice farming workshop called “Tanbo no I-ro-ha” or “ABC in a rice paddy,” on 8-9 June, 2019 at Tochikubo village in Niigata, Japan, having 35 students from Waseda University in Tokyo.

Time Lapse Video shows great progress. 時間短縮ビデオで見る学生たちの草取りパワー


Since we had very limited rain falls in May, some areas of rice paddies dried up and it helped weeds to grow seriously specially at our non-chemical, totally organic paddies. Students waled into the paddy with bare feet and used fully opened hands like as rakes to clear weeds.


Paddies were filled by water thanks to the rain since Friday evening but in most of the paddies the soil was so solid because of long dry condition that it was difficult to push fingers in the soil and we needed to pull out each weeds. Started the work at 9 am on Sunday, it took 4 hours and more to finish two rice paddies which size is over 1,000 square meters.


Beside weeding in rice paddies, villagers gave them lectures, and a specialist conducted nature tour. Through those students had a chance to feel the relationship between nature, life and community. They left comments like, “I strongly leant the true meaning of to live”, “I understood the hardship of farming”, “I should have more appreciation on food”.


Michigan Students Learnt Japan in Minami-Uonuma


ECOPLUS hosted a group of students from University of Michigan from 19 to 20 May in Minami-Uonuma for their learning on the relation with environment, life and culture through experiencing rice planting, weaving and other activities.


The trip was conducted by the relation with Ms. Leslie Pincus of University of Michigan and TAKANO Takako, executive director of ECOPLUS, as a part of their 3 weeks long tour to Japan.

Drying cooked mountain vegetable, “Zenmei.”


On 19th, they strolled around the village of Tochikubo which is located on the slope of around 500 meters elevation. They were deeply impressed by the scenery of mountains covered by white snow and young green, saying “this land might be so expensive.” They also encountered an old lady who was drying mountain vegetable called “Zenmai.”


On 20th, they experienced traditional rice planting by hands. They screamed a bit while they put their bare feet in the muddy soil of the paddy but later they acquired how to plant young seedlings in line and they finished the work in three hours.

Traditional sitting loom, called “IZARI-Bata,” or いざりばた


On the last day, 21st, they came back to the city area, “Shiozawa,” to learn about the local ramie cloth called “Echigo-Zyofu,” which has over a thousand year history. Specialists from Echigo-Jofu technique preservation association demonstrated how to get fibers fro the skin of the plant, how to dye the yarn for patterns, and how to weave. Some of the students experienced actual works by their hands.


Through the three-day stay, they seem to deepen the understanding on the relation with life and nature, like getting fuels from the forest, drinking water from the spring, making the water system running around all the terraced rice paddies.








 ・説明会 4月13日午後3時から、エコプラス事務局で。その他、5月はじめにかけての随時、エコプラス東京事務所や早稲田大学などで
 ・顔見せ会 5月18日(土)午前10時から正午(予定)
 ・事前キャンプ 7月6日、7日…東京近郊でヤップでの生活をイメージしながらキャンプを行います。

 ・顔見せ会 5月18日(土)午前10時から正午(予定)
 ・事前キャンプ 6月29日、30日…東京近郊でヤップでの生活をイメージしながらキャンプを行います。

 特定非営利活動法人ECOPLUS info@ecoclub.org
 03-5294-1441  03-5294-1442(fax)

Planting rice seedlings enjoying fresh winds; さわやかな風に吹かれて田植えを楽しむ


On 26 and 27 May, ECOPLUS conducted “a weekend farming workshop; rice planting” in Tochikubo village in Niigata Japan. Under the limitation of lodging space, we had eight participants from Niigata city and Metropolitan area.

We had water shortage caused by extremely small snow in previous winter in 2016, and low temperature and wet condition in 2017. This year we had enough snow as same as usual years but temperatures went up after March and it melted snow substantially. Farmers are worrying again the shortage of water.



On Saturday, we started planting seedlings in a smaller paddy which has around 800 square meters. Those paddies which have been growing rice without any chemical materials, the area was filled with so many creatures, like tadpoles, dragonflies and butterflies.

Thanks to the strong sunshine, surface of the mud is very warm. We set 4-6 seedlings in one position 1 centimeter under the surface.

One of the participants was came from Thailand but she was from the central part of big city, Bangkok. She and his Japanese husband were so good at planting works although it was the first time for them.



At the dinner so many dishes using wild vegetables just harvested by the chef from their hills were appeared. Some were boiled and mixed with sesame source or vinegar source, some were fried as “Templa”. We enjoyed the gorgeousness of the life in the mountain.


It was also very nice weather on Sunday and one of the participants succeeded to see the beautiful sunrise at 4 o’clock in the morning.
After finishing rice planting using one hour and so, we had open air lecture from Mr. FUEKI Akira, a veteran farmer. He explained that in old days when the paddies were much smaller and narrow, they conducted rice plantings one paddy to next one moving water from upper paddy to lower one. He also taught that normally 20 pesticides, weed killers or other chemicals were used for rice growing in one season but for this totally organic rice paddy he uses no chemicals. Because of this, he needs to weed by hands at least three times before harvest in each paddies.


Participants left comments, like “Superb scenery”, “Quietness and songs of birds were impressive”, “I know understood how hard to grow rice”.

Day 3) Recycle and Sewage facility visit 発泡スチロールのリサイクルにびっくり

Polystyren recycle facility 発泡スチロールのリサイクル施設



Environmental Education Center 環境学習施設えこっくる江東を訪問