Last week, I had a chance to help one of our brewery’s rice suppliers plant this year’s crop of rice (as I mentioned, I have fallen behind in my posts, so for those few who may have been following my story, I did end up getting a job in a brewery! Unbelievable but true).
The rice paddies are located in the neighboring town, high up in the hills (small mountains, really), which is not the normal place for growing rice. They are called “tanada” (shelf paddies) and from the picture below you can see why. These days, most rice (table and sake) is planted using a machine, however, these particular paddies are quite small and irregularly shaped, which is why we planted them by hand.
The sake rice we planted was a variety called “hitogokochi”. Sake rice produces a fatter grain than regular table rice, which allows the rice to be highly polished and still leave behind a decently sized grain. While table rice is polished to be 90% of the original grain, that being brown rice, sake rice can be polished as much as 65% (ie. 35% of the original size).
The best way to move around in the paddy is barefoot, as boots would just sink into the soft mud making walking pretty tough. The mud feels really nice on the feet too. To plant the rice, two small plants are placed in the mud, about an inch deep, and just stick out of the water (the mud is covered in about 10 cm of water). We planted along a line that was strung from either end of the paddy, placing the plants about 15 cm apart, over and over and over. I thought my back was going to be ruined the next day, but it was actually fine, it was my hamstrings that felt like they had been ripped apart. I am sure it would have been a lot worse if wasn’t for the long soaking we took in the hot spring (onsen) on the way home.
We will be going back periodically to check on the plants this summer, and then in the fall, going back for the harvest. Fun, fun!