Around 10km northwest of Hirosaki, the clever people of Inakadate have managed to create a concoction consisting of Japan's strongest attributes: rice growing, and painstaking perfection. With a population of around 8400, Inakadate, a seemingly little town like many others in Aomori (packed full of rice, apples and old people), has managed to stand out from the crowd with its incredible rice art, or tanbo art (田んぼアート).
Started in 1993, to pull in visitors to its aging town, the villagers of Inakadate pioneered rice art, using varieties of grain to create images within the rice paddies. This year's image used seven different coloured varieties. These days a computer is used to map out the images, taking into account perspective from the 22 metre high viewing platform, and thousands of stakes used to plot them (over 8000 stakes were used for the 2010 田んぼ!).
The 2003 portrait of Mona Lisa fell victim to the perspective issue, viewed from the castle-look-alike town hall, she let everyone know her good news.. looking somewhat pregnant. Check out the difference between the two perspectives from 2007`s art, from directly above and from the viewing platform.
This year's creation is of the Tale of the Bamboo Cutter, takentorimongatari (竹取物語), one of Japan's oldest tales. Check out the story at its Wikipedia page here (especially if you enjoy a sci-fi tale or two). I haven't included a picture as not to spoil the surprise, but is worth the visit for the few minutes of awe you get shuffling orderly around the viewing platform. There are a few little food stalls in the town hall carpark and a friendly obachan who gave me ￥100 off my melon. There's even a little foot onsen, ashiyuu (足湯), adjacent to the paddy opposite the town hall to help soak in the ricey atmosphere.
The Skinny: Get your (visual) fill of rice without the calories.
Price: Free! (There is a donation box with a couple of smiley obachans at the entrance for those feeling generous)
Where: The paddies are right opposite the Inakadate Town Office, plenty of 田んぼアート signs once you get there. Click here for a link from Jusco in Tsugaru City!
Dates: This year's season runs from May 30th until October 1st
Times: Open from 9am to 5pm (last admissions at 4.30pm)