Inakadate, an inconspicuous village with around 7,000 inhabitants in the Japanese prefecture of Aomori, is considered to be the home of an art form on the rice field that is more elaborate than anywhere else in the world.
Inakadate Village’s history as a world-renowned tourist destination began in the early 1990s when local authorities realized that youths were flocking to large urban centers and began brainstorming to breathe new life into the village. One of the ideas suggested was an art form inspired by the traditional rice growing of the area, which has been hand-operated for hundreds of years. Called Tanbo Art (rice field art), it involved the use of different colored rice varieties to turn local rice fields into giant canvases for intricate designs that showed their beauty from above.
The first artwork on the rice field was unveiled in 1993 when purple and yellow rice plants were used to create a detailed image of the mountain. Iwaki – the highest mountain in Aomori – along with easy to read signs. A viewing platform was set up somewhere above the rice field, from which people could admire the unique work of art in all its glory. The project was so successful that the Inakadate authorities decided to turn it into an annual event.
To create the impressively massive works of art of the rice field, locals use a technique unique in Japan that involves examining the rice fields, drawing in perspective, and manually planting different types of rice plants to achieve the desired visual effect. Tanbo art has come a long way in the past three decades, and the designs have gradually gotten bigger and more intricate.
Some of the most elaborate works of art created in Inakadate on the rice field required the use of no fewer than 10 different colored rice plants. The arduous process begins in the spring months, and in early summer the fruits of this labor are clearly visible. July and August are the best months to visit this famous Japanese village if you want to admire its Tanbo creations.
There are plenty of locals who say that rice paddy art saved Inakadate, attracted an impressive number of tourists from around the world each year, and boosted the local economy. According to CoolJP, around 200,000 people flocked to Inakadate in 2006 to see his unique art work, and by 2016 that number had grown to around 340,000.
The success of the Inakadate village has inspired other rice cultivation communities to borrow the Tanbo art concept. Today you can find this kind of impressive art work in rice fields all over Japan. Still, Aomori Prefecture Village is the most famous as the home of the Tanbo Art.
Unfortunately, the Covid-19 has had a major impact on artistic events around the world, especially those where large gatherings are held. Hence, it is unclear whether Inakadate village will host its famous Tanbo arts event this year. Fortunately, there are plenty of photos and videos of his previous creations to admire online.
For more amazing perspective artwork, check out Craig Alan’s Populous series.