Rice planting is the act of transplanting rice seedlings from the seedbed to a rice paddy. In Japan, it usually takes place from around the end of April to late June, depending on the region.
For centuries, each seedling was transplanted into neat rows by hand, making the process extremely time consuming. It also had to be done in a hurry, and so during the rice-planting season, people worked from dawn to dusk, regardless of the weather. The task was very labor intensive, and so often neighbors would help out with planting one another's fields.
In ancient times, rice growing was considered a religious act, and there were many taboos that had to be observed. Men and women had different roles, with women being largely responsible for planting the seedlings and men for drawing water into the paddies. This division of labor is thought to derive from the fact that women called saotome played a central role in rice-planting rituals.
In planting rice, the inadama, or the spirit of the rice plant, was invoked, and many folk rituals and dances that were performed as offerings to the spirit survive to this day.
After World War II, rice-planting machines were developed that speeded up this process by about five times. By around 1975, virtually all rice fields in Japan were planted using machines, the exceptions being paddies in particularly hilly or marshy areas. Almost all other aspects of rice growing are now also mechanized.
Thanks to mechanization, rice growing is not as time consuming and physically demanding as in the past. With the construction of irrigation channels and efforts to improve rice stock, moreover, more, better-tasting rice is grown today. In recent years the number of people who make their living solely as rice farmers has decreased; more farmers now have jobs other than tending to rice fields.