Visit Fukui: Traditional Japanese Rice Harvesting

Visit Fukui: Traditional Japanese Rice Planting
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As a Fukui Reporter, I was able to experience rice farming at a local farm in a part of northern Fukui called the “Awara Spa Town” and do a sake tasting at a local sake brewery in the area. 6 other JET Program participants, a local woman’s farming group, and myself went to Kengaku Farm in Awara’s “Spa Town” area to harvest “Okami” rice. It was my first time hearing about “okami” anything—other than the wolf variety, of course—so I was excited to get down and dirty in the fresh rice fields. What I didn’t know was that I would be able to drive a combine harvester, and the image of me wheeling the machine through the fields would be broadcasted on the TV screens of Fukui Prefecture and shared for the next two weeks after. 

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Okami Rice Farming Women
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When we first got to Kengaku Farm, a short opening ceremony and some introductions were held before we were given a sickle, some gloves, and some optional gear to combat the mud. Having some of the largest feet in the country at a whopping 26.5cm (or 10 US), I decided to risk it in my beaten up Converse. We moved to the rice paddies and were taught how to cut the rice grains from a little above the stalk, how to tie them and how to sort them. About halfway through harvesting the okami rice, the majority of us hopped on one of the giant combines to harvest a square of rice and were interviewed by Fukui’s cable news channel. 

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After a large chunk of the rice was harvested, we were treated with Fukui’s pride and joy, Echizen Oroshi Soba. From there, all of the Fukui Reporters and volunteers were whisked off to Kubota Sake Brewery. We all were able to tour the brewery and see the distillation process of the fermented rice and even had our own private tasting with the owner of the brewery. There were about 10 sake bottles at the tasting table and we were all given a cute sake cup to try the sake as much as we liked. All the sake had their own particular colors and flavors such as dry and strong or the weak and sweet. The crowd favorite was the Passionfruit, the Yuzu and the Plum wines, all seasonal fruit wines that the Kubota Brewery made itself. Although the fruity and dainty flavors of those sake were delicious, another one of my favorites was the brewery’s “famous” wine that was featured in a Japanese comic book. The tall blue bottle of sake featured a slightly sweet yet strong and dry sake that was a premium flavor for the brewery. 

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At the end of the tasting, we said our drunken goodbyes and promised to visit the brewery again while we cuddled the bottles of sake we bought.

…Four months later and I came into work after winter vacation to find a mystery bag of sake on my desk. *shock* Everyone who helped to harvest the rice were given two, yes two, bottles of sake, one of the dry variety and one of the sweet variety. 

I won’t be able to crack open the sake yet (I haven’t even drank the others I bought!), but I’m sure it’ll be delicious under a kotatsu and paired with some mikan.

You may not be able to experience harvesting sake rice if you visit Fukui, but you can buy and drink a bottle of the Kubota Brewery‘s sake at any of the stores selling Fukui-produced goods, or even at the brewery itself!

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