I’ve always admired the artistic and scientific marvels of Western crop circles – the time, effort, and vision it takes to plan and create the intricate designs. That being said, a level of guilt persists in admiring an artistic endeavour that creates beauty, but destroys valuable food and farmer’s income at the same time. Enter the farmers of Inakadate in the Aomori prefecture, north of Tokyo, Japan.
Every year, since 1993, Inakadate’s 8000 residents and farmers have worked together to create huge agricultural works of art in their rice paddy fields. Using green, purple and yellow-leafed rice, the “agri-artists” design and plant their rice, precisely plotting out the colours which bring the images to life. As the rice grows, the art becomes apparent from an elevated position, with the best viewing time in July.
More than 150,000 people visit Inakadate yearly to experience the rice paddy art, climbing the 22 metre high mock castle tower of the village office that overlooks the fields. Each year, residents choose a different theme – 2009’s is the Napoleon, Sengoku-period warrior, and fictional warrior and his wife Naoe Kanetsugu and Osen.
In 2008, the resident designers began using computers to plot their works, saving them time and allowing for increased detail in the images. While Inakadate is the most widely known for this art, their idea has caught on and other farming communities are creating their own field art, some with the help of the Inakadate designers who have been requested to give seminars on their methods of design and planting.
Alas, the rice field art will only be visible until September when the rice will be harvested, leaving residents to think about next year’s creations.