Taue (Rice Planting): Planting Yamada Nishiki in Rural Kyoto Prefecture for Next Year’s Sake

This entry is part 6 of 7 in the series Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery

Taue (Rice Planting): Planting Yamada Nishiki in Rural Kyoto Prefecture for Next Year’s Sake

Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Taue (田植) means rice planting, or properly, rice transplanting as seedlings are first grown in a protected area such as a greenhouse and then transplanted to the rice paddy. Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery (Learning to Make Sake series) contracts with rice farmers in several regions to grow rice to their specifications. I was invited to participate in the annual rice planting and barbecue gathering. There was a torrential downpour most of the day, but we had a great time and made new friends.

Breaking (Gold Medal) News
On May 22, 2008, Kitagawa Honke Sake Brewery won yet another gold medal at the Zenkoku Shinshu Kanpyokai (全国新酒鑑評会), National Sake Awards, sponsored by the National Research Institute of Brewing.

Congratulations to everyone at Kitagawa Honke!!

Taue
Properly, taue is very serious business in Japan. When Paku saw these pictures she didn’t like the idea of having a barbecue afterward. Of course, the reason being that traditionally, growing rice was a matter of survival in Japan. Life and death. Even today, to leave a bowl of rice with even a few grains uneaten is very, very bad form.

Never-the-less, we city slickers (employees, friends and family of Kitagawa Honke) went up to rural Kyoto on a chartered bus and experienced rice planting. And of course, no gathering in Japan would be complete without accompanying food and drink. So after planting in the rain and hosing the mud off of ourselves, we barbecued in the greenhouse. So despite the downpour, we were able to party unabated.

We just planted a very small corner of the paddy and some city kids got to experience what surely the vast majority of Japanese that ever lived made their living by – the cultivation of rice.

Attire
The flooded rice paddy, under just a few centimeters of standing water is a wonderful squishy ooze of greasy muck. The muck will suck shoes and most other footwear off in one step and going barefoot is not advised for city slickers as there is sometimes the odd shard of broken glass in the mud. Therefore, the recommended footwear is two pair of heavy socks. Socks stay on despite the muck and if a piece of glass is encountered, the muck underfoot is softer than sock/human flesh, so it will just sink further into the muck, not your foot. Several of our party, veterans of previous years, went barefoot and without incident.

How To
Taue is pretty simple, you just tear off a chunk of 2 or 3 seedlings from a sod-like mat and plop it into the muck. One of the main ideas here is to plant them in rows that are straight, but our crew didn’t do very well on this point. I looked down at the corner of the paddy that we planted after we all had exited and it looked like it might have been planted by drunks, but the truth is, we (the adults of course) hadn’t had any sake yet.

Though Japanese rice paddies are generally quite small, modern taue is an automated process done by a small, swimming tractor that plants the seedlings in neat and tidy rows.

Rice Planting in the Rain
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
That’s yours truly in the red t-shirt.

Rice Planting in the Rain
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Rice Planting in the Rain
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Rice Planting in the Rain
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
The smiling man in the blue raincoat is Tashima Toji, the sake brewmaster of Kitagawa Honke.

Rice Planting in the Rain – Mud
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
That gob of muck contains my foot!

Rice Planting in the Rain
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Barbecue
After planting we walked up to one of the greenhouses, still half covered in seedlings for our barbecue.

Green House
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Rows of seedlings are of two varieties.

Yamada Nishiki (山田錦) Seedlings
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
You will probably remember Yamada Nishiki from the Learning to Make Sake series. Yamada Nishiki is the primo rice variety in Japan for making sake.

Gold Medal Sake
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Brewmaster Tashima opening a bottle of the Daiginjo sake that won the gold at the Shinshu Kanpyokai as president and owner Mr. Kitagawa looks on.

Gold Medal Sake – Kampai!
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Now get this; it turns out that I helped wash the rice for the production lot that won the gold! They kindly, — jokingly, I am sure — attributed a portion of their success to my washing.

Gold Medal Sake – Swish Swish … Ummm!!
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Can’t beat this daigijo! Super fruity!!

Onigiri (Rice Balls)
The rice balls were made of rice grown by our host and just flavored with a bit of salt. Usually, I prefer onigiri at least wrapped in nori and better yet, flavored with interesting ingredients. But these onigiri were great! Plain with just a bit of salt illustrated the difference between regular rice and really tasty rice!

Onigiri (Rice Balls)
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Japanese love onigiri!

Onigiri
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Onigiri with Takuan Pickle
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Readying Sake
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Japanese Beef on the Barbecue
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

The Host, Mr. Kawakita

Kawakita-san – Nextgen Farmer
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Kawakita-san is the owner and operator of the farm. He grows rice for eating (shokumai 食米), sake rice (sakemai 酒米) and Kyoto’s famed kamonasu eggplants (賀茂茄子). The carrots and Italian parsley he is holding are just for his own consumption.

Kawakita-san explained to me in great detail about the finer points of kamonasu and pulled and picked some tasty leaves and roots from the narrow strips of earth that separate the rice paddies for me to try. I hope that we will be able to do an article about him in the future here on KyotoFoodie.

Onions
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Washing Carrots and Italian Parsley
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
Kawakita-san checking the progress of the carrot washing. The kids passed muster and the carrots went to the grill.

Kamonasu
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture
The kamonasu has been sliced and scored, and next go the the eat. But don’t grill eggplant! Cook it in oil.

Cooking Kamonasu in Oil
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

Cooking Kamonasu in Oil
Taue: Rice Planting in Rural Kyoto Prefecture

photo credit: Thanks to Mr Kitagawa for snapping the photos of Peko in the rice paddy.

7 Responses to “Taue (Rice Planting): Planting Yamada Nishiki in Rural Kyoto Prefecture for Next Year’s Sake”

  1. kat says:

    I think it is so wonderful that you got to participate in planting rice!

  2. Sounds like a great experience!

  3. Peko Peko says:

    Hi Kat and Marc,

    Yes! It was REALLY a great experience! Haven’t you done it?

  4. Hahaha, wish I have. Someday!

  5. kat says:

    sorry, no, but would like to one day :)

  6. Martin F says:

    I quoted from your blog entry, cheers for the excellent writing & photos.

  7. Peko Peko says:

    Hello Martin, Yes, I noticed your post in my incoming links. I tried to post a comment on your blog, but it looks like an blogspot account is required, so I didn’t. I am glad to see that you enjoyed taue!

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