Saturday, May 28, 2011

Maidens planting rice


Here are some more photos of the Tauebayashi festival down in Kawahira last weekend.


Someone asked if in the olden days the saotome, planting maidens, used to be virgins, and I have been unable to find out for sure. I suspect it may have been the case sometimes, but rice-planting rituals varied so much from region to region that it was probably not a universal thing.


Was talking with a friend recently who had just finished planting his rice and he said that according to his father during the Taisho period (1920's) it was the women who planted the rice. The men did the preparation of the paddies. Since the war the rice planting has become mechanized and the men do it mostly, though I often see old ladies out in the paddies afterwards planting on the corners where the machines can get to.


I believe in premodern Japan the whole family would have been involved in the planting.


When I first came to Japan I was told several times that all the old women I saw who walked bent over at 90 degrees were that way because of a lifetime working in the paddies. Like many things I was told it turns out to be a myth. There are millions of old women bent over who have never been in a rice paddy in their lives. It is caused by calcium deficiency. Prewar japanese diet was very poor. High mortality and low longevity were the norm until the postwar period.


Anyway, the matsuri was enjoyable again this year, though I missed the young kids playing the music.


The men, of course, have things to do..... lots of supervising and encouraging the women :)


  1. Merci pour ces magnifiques images
    Merci de me faire dĂ©couvrir ces fĂȘtes traditionnelles
    Tu as beaucoup de chance d'y assister!!

  2. Awesome pictures.

    I see a lot of women planting around Sendai, but there is a fair share of machines/men doing it too.

  3. What a great sight! And the outfit they were wearing is so colourful. :)

  4. Exquisite photos!

  5. SUPERB!!!
    Thank you very much also for your notes