The concept of “farm to table” was embraced in Japan well before the global movement gained popularity. “Farm to table” refers to the practice of getting fresh produce directly from local farmers and using them to make dishes – putting food on the table. Getting food from the land and connecting food producers to local communities are values people in Japan deeply treasure.
Many Japanese food items are produced through farming methods that come with a long history, including the traditional agriculture techniques used to grow Japanese rice and peanuts.
Think of your favorite Japanese food: sushi, donburi (rice bowls), Japanese curry rice. An important ingredient in these dishes is fragrant Japanese rice. Rice is a staple food in the Japanese diet with rice paddies spread throughout the country.
The rice fields and terraces in the rural regions are an important part of the landscape in Japan and have been cultivated for generations. The start of the rice planting cycle begins with the spreading of rice seeds in the seedling bed in early spring. When the seedlings have sufficiently grown, clumps of seedlings are transplanted and planted in flooded rice fields. The fields turn from green to golden and the rice is harvested in autumn.
Rice farming is closely intertwined with the local communities’ customs and traditions. Festivals and rituals accompany the main stages of rice cultivation. At the start of the rice cultivation cycle, rice planning festivals are carried out to celebrate and pray for a successful season and prosperous harvest.
One of the oldest and most popular festivals is the Otaue Rice Planting Festival at Sumiyoshi Shrine in Osaka. Men and women dressed in colorful traditional outfits plant the rice seedlings gracefully and dance to the tunes produced by Japanese music instruments.
The harvest of the rice in autumn is highly anticipated with festivals celebrating the bountiful harvest and giving thanks to the Gods. Newly harvested rice called shinmai (新米)is given great value as they contain more moisture and taste better. The Niinamesai (新嘗祭) ritual is conducted on November 23, as is the Labor Thanksgiving Day in Japan, where the Emperor presents new rice to the deities.
Peanuts may not be the first food you associate with Japan. But did you know peanuts are used in many popular Japanese foods like mochi, ice cream, and even tofu? 80% of Japan's peanuts are produced in Chiba Prefecture, with Yachimata City being the most famous.
At the start of autumn, curious piles can be seen in the fields in Chiba. Called “bocchi” (ぼっち) these huge “peanut balls” are made of peanut plants that are carefully bundled with their peanut shells wrapped inside. The “bocchi” balls are left to dry on the fields for about a month. The natural sun drying technique preserves the sweetness of the peanuts, resulting is high quality peanuts with unique flavors and textures that are then enjoyed boiled, roasted or cooked with rice.
About the author:
Wendy writes about her travel experiences to escape from her city life in Singapore. Her content creator’s journey started when she had the opportunity to live and teach in Okinawa and circumvent the world with Peace Boat. A compulsive-obsessive traveler and culture enthusiast, she believes that when we know more, we travel better. Or in true foodie spirit, when we eat more, we travel better.