Piling up stones in a skillful manner to set up rice paddies on steep slopes in a mountainous area. About 400 years ago, Sakaori residents in Ena city, Gifu prefecture began establishing “Tanada” or terraced rice fields by taking advantage of abundant water resources. To perfect the paddies, they even brought the master masons who built the stone walls of Nagoya Castle. Now, Sakaori “Tanada” is regarded as s cultural property because of centuries of its history and its scenic beauty throughout the year.
The Sakaori rice paddies attract people with its seasonal landscapes in a quiet rural setting. In spring, the fields are filled with water from a river and groundwater supplies before rice planting in late May. Photographers tend to prefer this season as the water best reflects the morning and evening sunlight, clouds, blue skies and mountains. In summer, the paddies become brilliant green all over with fully grown rice plants. Golden waves of grain are seen in autumn before harvesting in late September. It is also tasteful to view the fields covered with snow in winter.
Regardless of their beauty, Japan’s “Tanada” is facing difficult circumstances. The paddies are often abandoned partly because large farm machines required for economical production cannot be used easily. The aging of farmers and lack of their successors add to their adversities. Against this backdrop, the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries of Japan selected the best 134 “tanada” areas in 1999 to promote tourism. Sakaori “Tanada” is one of them.
In addition, Sakaori and many other “Tanada” regions introduced what they call “Tanada Ownership System,” which allows city dwellers to own rice fields for a year with fees. The owners are obliged to participate in major rice production works such as planting and harvesting. In return, they get a part of the harvested rice. The system is designed to contribute to the preservation of “Tanada” by encouraging social interaction between farmers and urban dwellers.
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