Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Children of the Rice, The Return of

I have, over the course of my residence in Kazamaura, chronicled the trans-curricular activities of Hebiura (Snakeshore) Elementary School with great enthusiasm. I have harvested seaweed with them, and I have planted rice with them. In my absence, they have planted gardens (mainly potatoes) and collected cow manure from Oma farms with which to fertilize their gardens. As a kind of harvest festival, they gave presentations on their potato harvest in front of visiting teachers from other school districts and demonstrated parliamentary procedure in planning a potato party. I was present for that. I was also invited to their potato party which they held on their seaweed claim (i.e. a rocky stretch of beach leased by the school). That potato party began with a massive beach cleanup in which they picked up multi-national garbage that washes in from the nearby shipping lanes while facing such hazards as exploding aerosol cans (no, really, one of the garbage bags exploded as a kid was carrying it). Today, I present for your viewing pleasure this years rice harvest in which I had the honour of participating.

The harvest began with the arming of the peasants (I mean, children) . . .

They used these mini-scythes to cut the standing rice. Hebiura Elementary School’s rice field is actually in Ikokuma, about a five minute walk from our house. It sits on a hill overlooking the sea, and through the gaps in the trees on the brow of the hill one can see the beautiful view of the Tsugaru Strait and, beyond, the northern island of Hokkaido. If it weren’t for all the nuclear facilities being developed in neighbouring towns, I would want to stay here in Kazamaura forever.

After being cut, the rice is tied into bundles (shocks?) . . .

. . . carried across the field in little arms . . .

. . . and hung up to dry.

Following all their hard work, the students are rewarded with a ration of Pocari Sweat. For some reason the Coca Cola company has never tried to market this “sweat” in North America.

This rice harvest brought back solemn memories for me. It was while we were planting this very same rice that I dropped Mobile Man into a deep and fast flowing irrigation ditch. Mobile Man still functions perfectly well as a cell phone per se, but the tragic accident put an end to Mobile Man’s most valuable functions——camera and video——and, consequently, an end to my favourite hobby: Keitai Cinema.