Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Himesayuri Lilies and Tanada Rice Terraces

On a fine sunny June day, I went to admire the official Sanjo City flower, himesayuri, and tanada, the terraced rice fields at Kita-Imogawa. This hamlet, which is located on the outskirts of Sanjo City, faces the eastern side of the cliff off Mt. Yagigahana (see the picture shown with the title of this blog article).

Himesayuri, my most favorite flower, literally means “princess lilies,” but is translated as “star lilies” by Sanjo City officials. Its alternative name is otomeyuri, “maiden lilies.” They are listed as endangered, and can be found only in a limited number of places in Japan, but they are ubiquitous around the ruins of Takajo Castle and its surrounding hiking trails.

Around this area, the somewhat dainty flower is known to bloom from mid-May to mid-June. The flowers in the pictures below were not from Takajo, but were unexpectedly found along the paths of the paddy fields at Kta-Imogawa. When I saw them, I wished they had been protected by ringed fences.

Look at the beautiful photos of Tanada below.
The Kita-Imogawa’s tanada is listed as one of Japan’s top 100 terraced rice fields by the Ministry of International Trade and Industry of Japan. The rice-planting season was just finished a few weeks ago, and I believe this is the most beautiful time of the year to view them.

I feel so serene looking down at the village from the top of the tanada.

It is definitely easier to plant rice in plain fields, but the lack of space in the mountainous villages made farmers decide to reclaim heavy slopes, creating graduated terrace steps. These turned to be some of the most delicious rice produced in Japan as these mountainous areas are rich in pure waters from melted snows, a determinative of the quality of rice.

Niigata prefecture is the largest, sometimes second largest, producer of rice output in Japan. For that reason, Niigata is also the biggest sake and rice cracker producer as well.

If you get the chance, why don’t you hike along Shitada’s trails?