The Beginning

Rather than give a long introductory entry telling you the whys and hows and whatevers of why I’m blogging about rice farming, I’d just as soon start at the beginning of the season and let those whys and hows and whatevers surface as I write.

To start, I can give just a brief idea of what this blog is and who is writing it:  I’m Matt.  I’m an American living on Sado Island in Japan.  I’ve been here about 8 years now and plan on staying longer.  I came to Japan and taught English for the majority of those last 8 years and only recently decided I wanted to try my hand at rice farming.  I had done nothing like it before coming to Japan (I majored in English in college), but after helping out a friend, Nobuhiro Watanabe, here with his rice farm I thought I might like to give it a try.  He agreed to take me on as a partner/apprentice and here I am.  My first full year as a rice farmer.

It’s the end of March and here on Sado so it’s still rather cold, but there’s still a lot to do to prepare for the next two months which will be busy with planting the fields.  On days that it’s nice out we work out in the field cleaning irrigation gutters, manicuring the edges of the rice fields (called あぜ), and leveling the mud in the fields.  On days that the weather isn’t so nice, we start preparing the rice seeds and seed-beds.

This year we’re going to plant 4 kinds of rice.  First is Koshihikari, which is a rather famous brand in Japan and around the world.  The majority of our harvest will be Koshihikari.  Second is Koshiibuki; this is a newcomer to these parts and is a bit cheaper than Koshihikari.  Third is Hananomae which, I am told, has a lighter taste than the heavier Koshihkari.  It’s diet rice!   We planted a bit of Hananomae last year with local elementary school and had some seeds left over so we figured “waste not, want not.”  Forth is Kuromae.  This is black rice and it will be our first time planting this this year.  I’m looking forward to seeing how this rice looks and tastes.

To prepare the seeds we first had to soak them in saltwater.  This allows the weak seeds and seedless husks to float to the top so that we can filter them out.

Next we let the seeds soak in fresh water for a couple weeks.

After the seeds are done soaking, we’ll put them in their seed-beds, but that’s a post for another day.