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.


Weeding Workshop in an Organic Rice Paddy


ECOPLUS conducted workshops on weeding in our non-chemical rice paddy in the weekend of June 20 and 27-28 in Tochikubo village at Minamiuonuma, Niigata, Japan. In order to avoid the risks on COVID-19, the workshop, used to be conducted for two days staying in an inn in the village, was changed into one-day program. For the there days, in total 16 persons were gathered and enjoyed the work surrounded by the calls of Ruddy Kingfisher and Gray-faced buzzard.


In those rice paddies, farmers have not been using chemicals for over 15 years. So weeds are also very healthy. Specially “Inu-Bie” or Japanese millet, is so similar to rice that it was so difficult to identify which is which in the field.


Mr. FUEKI Akira, the chief of Tochikubo Panorama Farm taught us that rice has small fluffs surrounding the base of each leaf. So, we were concentrating our eyes very close to those plants before each weeding actions.

Using “Taguruma,” a special tool, weeds along the long side can be pulled out.


Some days before our works, farmers used special tool called “Taguruma,” which has metal rotating claws. So, weeds along the one side were already taken or less but another side was very congested with weeds.

直線方向はきれいだが、横方法に雑草が残る。Weeds between rice seedlings are still remained.


Weeds are grown as same as rice, we need to use all fingers pushed deep into the mud then pull out the weeds with roots. Keeping the bottom very low in the paddy during the work for more than one hour was quite tough for all of us.


Many of participants from Tokyo area repeated that “I never imagined it needs such hard work to grow rice organiclally.” Some university students, once said “I was doing football fo long years so I am confident on my physical strangeness,” complained of back pain.

羽化した直後の透明なアキアカネ。A dragonfly, just emerged.


While weeding, we identified so many dragonflies were emerging on the leaves of young rice. Some are totally transparent like a glassworks. All of us recognized the richness of the nature in the organic environment.


Rice Planting Workshop with Limited Local Participants.


ECOPLUS conducted rice planting workshop on May 23, 2020, at Tochikubo village, Minamiuonuma, Niigata. Considering national emergency on COVID-19 situation, only Niigata locals joined the program although every year many participants from metropolitan area joined the program.


It was gorgeous morning with nice view of snow covered mountains and fresh greens from the rice paddy.


Total nine participants from university students to aged local ex-farmer stepped into the rice paddy with bare feet feeling warmed soft soil. We used old wooden framed to make marks on the soil so that young seedlings could be sit on each crossing section.