Beppu is located along the eastern sea coast of Oita Prefecture. Beppu is the hot spring area which yields the highest amount of spring water in Japan. The water yield is second only to Yello ...Further Details...
The Uchinnari Rice Terraces are rice terraces in Oita prefecture’s city of Beppu, which is known for having the largest output of hot springs water in Japan. It is said that there are about 1,000 rice terraces in Uchinari and it has been chosen as one of the 100 best rice terraces in Japan. The rice grown is high quality and recently, rice balls made using rice from the Uchinari Rice Terraces were offered in the meals for first class passengers on JAL (Japan Airlines) domestic flights.
Easily accessible, it is 15 minutes away from Beppu Station by car and the charm of the mountains spreads out in Uchinari, separate from the hot springs area on the seaside. This time, to introduce Beppu’s attraction besides just hot springs, we joined a rice planting experience sponsored through the cooperation of the region and LSB Research Group (explained at the bottom of the page), a local university student group.
Join a rice planting experience!
The meeting place for the experience is Beppu Station. For transportation to Uchinari, there are cars, buses, taxis and so on and this time we used the local Kamenoi Bus. Incidentally, if you take a taxi, it costs about ￥2,000 to ￥3,000 to go from Beppu Station to the community center at the entrance to the region.
Bumping along on the bus, we climb up the mountains with rice terraces. This area where Uchinari is located (see the map below) is on the other side of the mountain from Beppu Bay.
Arriving at the community center, we were greeted by local people. These are the people who are the teachers for our experience today. From the left, president of the rice terrace protection group Kaino Kichiro, Uchinari ward captain Ono Seiichi, and director of the rice terrace protection group Goto Toshio. Learn the simple basics of rice planting and head to the rice paddies!
Rice planting lecture from a local farmer
Now, most farmers are using machines to plant rice but for the experience, it will be all hand planting. This tool is useful when planting by hand.
Strings marked at regular intervals are tied to wooden stick on each side. If you place the sticks at both ends of the rice field as shown below and plant the seedlings at the places where the strings stretched between are marked, you can line the seedlings up in straight rows even when planting by hand.
Points of rice planting
When you go into the rice paddy, wear socks that can get dirty or, it is safest to wear tall rubber boots which are just right for this. Because sandals may get stuck in the mud and lost, we do not recommend wearing them.
Also, when planting seedlings, we plant 4 or 5 seedlings from the seedling bundle. Then, the seed must be planted firmly in the mud of the rice paddy so the seedling will not be washed away. If it is planted too deeply, the seedling will be filled with water and this may cause it to rot so make a foundation by collecting the surrounding mud. The fine clay like soil is cool and feels good!
The rice planting experience ends in about 2 hours but it is fairly persistent work. If you bend over with your back high while digging, your back may hurt so it is better if you lower your back as much as possible while you crouch.
The Hinohikari planted this time is a major rice variety in Kyushu. The grains are small but they are thick and it is known as rice with a good bite. Of course, the taste is also highly regarded and the rice offered in first class on JAL’s (Japan Airlines) domestic flights was Hinohikari.
After planting one row, go down one step and repeat as you plant in even intervals. Planting in even intervals does not waste space in the rice paddy while nutrition is spread efficiently to the seedlings. There was the tool we introduced before but we also bow our heads to the wisdom and efforts of people from long ago.
After rice planting, lunch made with rice from the rice terraces
When the planting of one of the rice paddies for the experience is finished, mud is washed from hands and feet and we move to the community center for lunch. Lunch is foods homemade by people from the processing department and of course it is made with rice from the rice terraces. After feeling the strain of planting rice by hand, you will feel more grateful than ever for the rice. This time, takikomi gohan (rice steamed together with seasoning and vegetables) was prepared but the rice used in this takikomi gohan was rice planted in rice planting experiences the year before. Maybe the rice we planted this time will be passed along to the experience next year.
Side dishes made with fresh Uchinari vegetables and seasoned with dashi (broth) and soy sauce base. This lunch menu could be called the Japanese farm taste. When I asked an exchange student from Bangladesh sitting near me his reaction to this food, he seemed to like Uchinari home cooking, saying “this Uchinari cooking focuses on vegetables and doesn’t use pork so it is safe for Muslims to eat.”
Time to leave the local people, the bus home is coming
When lunch is over, we bid farewell to the local people as we board the special ride that has come to pick us up from the community center.
With the one day pass for the Kamenoi Bus we got when making the reservations for the experience, we can have unlimited rides on bus routes within the city of Beppu for the whole day and after that, if there is a bus, you can take it home. There are a lot of other places to see in Uchinari such as observation points for looking down on the rice terraces, unattended roadside farm stands and so on, including “Kinoko no Sato” camp site where there is a hot springs you can use for ￥300 so this is recommended for relaxation after the strain of rice planting. It’s extraordinary to go in the hot springs after sweating.
Next time, how about rice harvesting experience?
The rice we planted this time will be gathered in a rice harvesting experience in the fall. In Uchinari, experiences utilizing the resources of the area are held every other month and besides rice planting and rice harvesting, at Sekijoji, a temple of the Rinzai sect, a Zazen (Zen meditation) experience and an experience making Shimenawa (a ceremonial rope) using the harvested rice plants are also carried out. For details about the experience schedule and fees, check the LSB Research Society home page（http://www.uchinari.com/）. Please look for the experience that interests you in Uchinari, where you can enjoy the beautiful scenery in all four seasons.
Try a rice planting experience in the Uchinari Rice Terraces, 15 minutes by car from Beppu!: Image Gallery