These pictures were taken in May and June 2013. The sixth and last picture was taken at a flower store in my Nakano-ku neighborhood. The shop offers rice plants for people' private use. But the other pictures were taken at a large public park near Hikarigaoka Station, the terminus of the Oedo Subway Line. Hikarigaoka is a major suburb and bedroom town in Tokyo's Nerima Ward, and the park is the focus of several schools - two nursery schools, one elementary, one junior and one senior high school. The park is designed with a meadow, a grove, an artificial stream and a pond at its lower end with small rice paddies ("tombo" in Japanese) adjacent to the stream and the pond.
Every spring rice is planted in the small paddies. Who plants them I don't know. Either a farmer's association, or else a local seniors group. I have watched the planting taking place, so I know they are senior citizens who do it. They drive in with trucks, unload some heavy equipment for turning the ground in the spring which has been fallow since the previous fall, flood the paddies - which ar landscaped in descending tiers - and then wade in with hip boot waders to plant rice stalks by hand in neat, straight rows. It's a curious sight to see in the middle of an urban metropolis, but it is a reminder of Japan's mostly agricultural history. Why it is planted I can only guess. It might be educational for the local schools - especially the preschool children. Or it might just be a hobby of the local senior citizens center. Either way, it cuts both ways. Imagine a Canadian elementary school growing corn in its garden as a student science project.
By late June there are frogs in the paddies croaking to each other. I wonder where they came from? I might be teaching an English class in the adjacent high school whose windows face onto the park, and in the background I can hear frogs croaking in the middle of the city. Also in late June multiple insects have had time to breed in the paddies and it is common to see many kinds of birds flitting and diving looking for something to eat. In addition, there are elementary school boys standing in the mud or on the verge at the edge of the paddies after school hours holding nylon insect nets and hunting for whatever crawls. Bugs - especially large beetles like the rhinoceros beetle (“kabutomushi”) and the stag beetle (“kuwagata”) - are popular summer time pets for children. Pet stores in the city stock them and ¥100 shops sell supplies for keeping them.
I regularly walk through the park in the spring. But during the summer I am away for many weeks and don't see the garden again until the fall, when the rice stalks have grown much higher. Around November the stalks are harvested. Once again I see the senior citizens out working. They set up drying racks in an adjacent meadow and hang the harvested stalks upside down to dry in the autumn air. I suppose they do some winnowing, too, for the benefit of the preschoolers, to teach them about food production.