In a landscape dominated by mountains, among forests that cover 80% of Nagano’s terrain, Matsumoto may not seem well-positioned for an abundance of agriculture. But the farming industry here is alive and well, and it is that time of year once again to enjoy the sight of rice harvesting in Matsumoto – and the beauty of the autumn season.
Of course, the harvest is just the culmination. Let’s backtrack a bit…
Rice-planting in Matsumoto takes place in late April to early May. Farmers flood their fields with the clean mountain snowmelt. And, now most often with specialized machinery, plant the young rice shoots they cultivate in greenhouses in neat rows in the mud.
Combined with the water flowing down from the mountains, Matsumoto’s inland climate, with appreciable temperature differences between day and night even throughout the summer, provides a favorable environment for growing rice.
By September the rice plants have turned gold and top-heavy. When all is said and done Matsumoto will have contributed a major percentage of the 200,000 tons of rice Nagano Prefecture produces each year.
Rice harvesting is often done now with the help of some loud, heavy machinery. But some of the cutting, and virtually all of the drying, is still done by hand. Each year the area’s elementary school children get a chance to cut and hang the rice plants in the fields around town.
One interesting and challenging issue arises from all the rice that is grown here: What do we do with all the straw left behind? There are a few solutions. And some are better than others.
Some of the straw is baled and used to feed livestock. Some farmers will till their fields and return the straw to the earth. And sometimes it simply goes up in smoke as some farmers choose to burn a portion of the residue of their crops – a practice that saves time but doesn’t help keep our mountain air clean.
In the End
In a way it’s a bit of a bummer to see those fields, so lush and green all summer, suddenly turned to brown. But they’ll be rich with rice once again next Spring.
And in the meantime, we’ve got apple season to enjoy!
There’s beauty to enjoy here in every season. In Autumn that beauty is evident in the annual rice harvesting that takes place here in Matsumoto.
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