A few weeks ago we were given the opportunity to partner with a Japanese organization to plant rice in a small village outside Iwakuni. This annual event was designed to foster a relationship between the Japanese locals and the American base.
We traveled to a very small village nestled between two mountains. The village was once a thriving community with lots of children, but has since dwindled to only two students. We set up camp at a former school turned community center.
We each received name tags that were translated so everyone could read them. The base library also donated shirts so we all matched. After a brief opening ceremony and introductions we walked the few blocks from the school to the rice paddies.
Many of the fields had already been planted so we were able to what the finished product
Our field before planting.
Each person was given a small section of rice seedlings. We waded out into the mud in a straight line to prepare our planting.
The fields are filled with mud and then flooded to prevent insects from destroying the seedlings. A knotted rope was strung from end to end and we planted three seedlings at each knot. After planting, we would take a step backwards, the line would be moved and we would plant again. After the first couple of moves the novelty wore off. It really is back-breaking work!
Our finished....very wobbly.... field.
After planting we cleaned up and made our way back to the school. Some Japanese volunteers provided homemade curry and pickled vegetables. It was delicious after the hours spent in the sun. Before returning back to base we spent some time in the school walking through the rooms. Most of our group set up a large, rather rambunctious, game of Duck Duck Goose. It is great fun in any language.
The school is actually two buildings although the older building is not open for walkthroughs. The older building is over 110 years old. The newer building was used up through about five years ago until there weren't enough students in the village to keep it open.
After hours in the sun and a good lunch we were ready for a long nap. Whew! I now understand why not eating all of it in a restaurant is considered rude. Rice planting is tough work!