Imagine. You’re on a train, visiting the northern tip of Japan’s main island, Honshu. The train speeds through countryside, field after field of green rice shoots. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, a giant-sized Naruto face fills your vision. It might take a moment to realise that it’s created out of rice shoots, but you’d probably agree that it’s the strangest, nerdiest and most inventive form of nature art ever.
This is Japan’s version of crop circles, and as expected, it’s infinitely more intricate than even our most detailed Western ‘alien-inspired’ crop circles. In addition, it doesn’t involve destruction of crops. The artwork is all made from undamaged, living rice, and can all be harvested and eaten at the end of the growing season. It’s only done in the one village, and has become a major tourist attraction.
It started in 1993 during a village revitalisation project. Since Inakadate has a rich history of rice cultivation spanning over two thousand years, they decided to honour this by growing different strains of rice in specific patterns to create massive artworks. Every year in spring the rice is planted with incredible accuracy, and come the autumn the paintings are harvested. Manga and popular culture is a recurrent theme, as are references to deities and historical figures.
The village has become so well known for it that it has even had a train station, Tamboāto Station, commissioned specifically so that visitors can view the artworks. Be sure to put it on your sightseeing list if you visit Japan, just make sure to visit during rice-growing season!