Town creates art in rice paddies for economic revival

The New York Times ran a great story about how a small town in northern Japan named Inakadate has been creating art works using colored rice as a way to attract tourists and revive a struggling economy. Creating this living art work has brought the community together and draws up to 170,000 visitors to this town of fewer than 9,000 mostly elderly residents.

Five colors of rice plotted intricately on the field yield this image of a samurai fighting a warrior monk. The cost of renting and planting the field is about US35,000 making this an affordable rural revitalization effort. Last year 170,000 visitors came to view the rice art. And each year the town tries to outdo previous efforts to continue to gain media attention and visitors.

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Fall ikebana at Meiji Jingu

Meiji Jingu last weekend had a fall ikebana display. This was my favorite combination of fall foliage and bright contrasting flower, with an understated ceramic vase.

It was fun to see the extremely stylized ikebana in the forest of Meiji Jingu, next to the shrine with its enormous trees and the endless procession of Sunday weddings shielded by giant red umbrellas and thronged with photo-snapping tourists. The ikebana display was a mostly ignored moment of quiet dignity amidst the clash of tradition and modernity, upper class families and international tourists, sacred, stylized and natural.

Fall has been wonderfully mild, with the zelkova (keyaki in Japanese) trees starting to turn yellow. Of the many ginkos (icho), I have seen just one already turned yellow.