Thursday, March 4, 2021

A Couple of Mysteries Solved


Heading north through the paddies north of Yatsushiro I was surprised to see tractors planting in flooded paddies. I had read that in the far south of Kyushu some places were able to squeeze two crops of rice a year because it was so warm, but late November seemed a weird time to be planting.

Later, a closer look at some paddies and it sure didn't look like any kind of rice i had seen before. Another mystery was that as I walked through each small settlement scattered across the plain there was the incessant clatter of machinery coming from farm buildings.

I was finally able to peer inside one of these buildings and suddenly all became clear. It was not rice being grown around here but a plant called Igusa, a kind of rush-grass, and the material that makes the mats that cover tatami flooring.

The area around Yatsushiro has been growing Igusa for 500 years and is now the main source for the material domestically. I have seen a few, small tatami workshops, and there are some high-end manufacturers, but most tatami in Japan now is mass-produced in Chima.

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