MIE, June 3 – A scenic grouping of 1,340 rice paddies in the town of Kiwa in Kumano, Mie Prefecture, is attracting visitors as one of the largest rice terraces in the country.
Stretching out on a farmland totaling 7.2 hectares cut into the sides of a 150-meter-high slope, the small rice paddies of various sizes – about 0.3 ares in average – are filled with water before the rice planting season and shimmer in the sunlight, forming gentle arcs that look like fish scales.
In May, farmers start planting rice, using two-row transplanters.
Records show that the rice terraces were created some 900 years ago, and that there were 2,240 rice paddies in 1601. But along with the depopulation of the district, more paddies were abandoned and the number was reduced to 530 in the early 1990s.
In 1993, local farmers set up a preservation group to protect the rice paddies and implemented such measures as restoring collapsed stone terrace walls.
An owner system was introduced in 1996 to let people in urban areas provide funds to preserve the rice paddies and experience rice production from border coating to harvesting. About 20 percent of the rice paddies – totaling 1.5 hectares – are subject to the system.
A total of 109 groups have registered to become owners this year. Yuichi Murase, a 40-year-old nurse of the town of Odai, Mie, who became an owner, said: “On beautiful rice terraces, we can experience things that we cannot experience in urban areas.”
Helped by the owner system, more than 800 rice paddies were restored. Some 30,000 people visited the area in fiscal 2018 to enjoy the superb view.