“Tambo Art" on Rice Fields - A Giant Canvas | Food & Travel | Trends in Japan | Web Japan

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Tambo Art" on Rice Fields - A Giant Canvas

“Yamata-no-orochi and Susano-no-mikoto” (the serpent & the god) in a piece of Tambo Art illustrating the Japanese myth of the Yamata-no-orochi (8-headed & 8-tailed serpent)(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

"Yamata-no-orochi and Susano-no-mikoto" (the serpent & the god) in a piece of Tambo Art illustrating the Japanese myth of the Yamata-no-orochi (8-headed & 8-tailed serpent)(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

    Rice is the staple food of the Japanese people. Japan consumes approximately 8 million tons of rice annually, which makes around 55kg per person per year; of which 98% is domestically produced. The rice fields, where rice is grown, account for 54.4% of all Japan's cultivated land (as of 2017). Many Japanese people feel that rice fields represent Japan's essential landscape.
    Recently, works of so-called “Tambo Art” have been attracting attention. In Japanese, rice fields are called “Ta” or “Tambo” and Tambo Art uses rice fields as a canvas to create huge design works by planting rice with different colored leaves and grain heads. The concept assumes that the design illustration will be viewed from a high place such as a viewing platform or similar.
    At Inakadate Village in Aomori Prefecture and Gyoda City in Saitama Prefecture, Tambo Art is a huge event, with elaborate works produced each year.

Different varieties to reproduce colors

     Inakadate Village in Aomori Prefecture is regarded as the birthplace of Tambo Art. In 2017, they created an illustration of the Japanese myth "Yamata-no-orochi and Susano-no-mikoto" (the 8-headed/8-tailed serpent & the god Susano) The tale is about a big serpent ("Yamata-no-orochi" ) with 8 heads and 8 tails on one body and the god ("Susano-no-mikoto" ) who vanquished it.
    This piece of Tambo Art used thirteen varieties of rice, including the purple, yellow and green ancient rice, "Tsugaru Roman" - one of Aomori's core varieties, and the new varieties "Seiten-no-Hekireki" and "Asayuki"; as well as rice plants with leaves of red, white and orange color, etc.

(from the left) “Tsugaru Roman” which shows up green; “Beni-Asobi” which shows up red; and “Akane-Asobi” which shows up orange (Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

    Gyoda City in Saitama Prefecture was recognized in the Guinness Book of World Records in 2015 for the size of its Tambo Art. In 2017 they created "Inada Hime-no-mikoto and Susano-no-mikoto" themed on the same myth as that used in Inakadate Village. The work depicts the guardian goddess of the rice fields "Inada Hime-no-mikoto" and "Susano-no-mikoto" who became husband and wife when he rescued her as she was to be offered as a sacrifice to the serpent "Yamato-no-Orochi." It is 28,000㎡ in size; equivalent to 22 Olympic-size swimming pools.
    Gyoda City used 9 varieties of rice in this piece, including Saitama Prefecture’s “Sai-no-kagayaki.” Many of the varieties were created in the Tohoku Region where the summers are relatively cool, so it was difficult to grow them in the northern part of Saitama Prefecture which is renowned for its intense heat.

“Inada Hime-no-mikoto and Susano-no-mikoto”(Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

Inada Hime-no-mikoto and Susano-no-mikoto”(Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

How “Tambo Art” is made

    So how are the giant pieces of Tambo Art made?
    First you chose a design and get farmers to cultivate the rice seedlings you require. The art work cannot be completed unless the rice plants are cultivated well. Nurturing the seedlings is an extremely important task.

Rice seedlings being grown on a farm (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

Rice seedlings being grown on a farm (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)


    Along with the seedlings in the nursery, preparations also begin on the rice fields. Water is run into the fields, the earth is tilled and fertilizer is spread. Next, you make a base drawing of the design and a surveyor makes a design blueprint for the stakeout based on this. The area is then surveyed according to the coordinates written on the design blueprint and the field is staked out, with the stakes joined together by rope. Then, you specify the variety of seedling to be planted in each section.

The base drawing for “Yamata-no-orochi and Susano-no-mikoto” (Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The base drawing for "Yamata-no-orochi and Susano-no-mikoto" (Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The base drawing for“Momotaro”- exhibited at Venue 2. A famous Japanese folk tale(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The base drawing for“Momotaro”- exhibited at Venue 2. A famous Japanese folk tale(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The base drawing for “Inada Hime-no-mikoto and Susano-no-mikoto” on a ground-view design blueprint (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of <i>Tambo Art</i> - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

The base drawing for “Inada Hime-no-mikoto and Susano-no-mikoto” on a ground-view design blueprint (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)


The survey (left) and how it looks once the stakes have been placed(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)


The survey and how it looks as the stakes are being placed (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

    Next, the rice fields are finally planted. Many municipalities that create Tambo Art, set up events for “hands-on rice field planting sessions.”

A shot of a rice field planting event(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

A shot of a rice field planting event(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

A shot of a rice field planting event (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

A shot of a rice field planting event (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

    Typically July and August are the best months to view Tambo Art each year, as the colors are at their most vivid at this time. After that it can be enjoyed right up until the fall when the rice is harvested. After the rice plants are harvested, the rice is milled into polished rice and later on it will be given out to those who participated in the event and used as a treat for lunch at an event.

A shot of a rice harvesting event(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

A shot of a rice harvesting event(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The fields after the rice has been harvested(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

The fields after the rice has been harvested(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

At events, participants are treated to “Onigiri” (rice balls) made of rice that was used in last year’s Tambo Art Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

Onigiri made by hand from cooked rice are a traditional Japanese food that are easy to eat. Wrap them in dried seaweed and put ingredients like baked salmon inside.

Tambo Art - Creating Large Tourist Centers

    There were virtually no tourists in Inakadate Village until Tambo Art began. However, it is now a tourist spot with around 270,000 visitors a year. Each year at two locations in the village of Inakadate, delicate pieces of Tambo Art are created, with great attention paid to detail. Live video feeds of Tambo Art are constantly broadcast on Inakadate Village's official home page.

2017 Tambo Art “Momotaro”(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)

2017 Tambo Art “Momotaro”(Courtesy of Inakadate Village Revitalization Promotion Council)


    Inakadate Village has also started to experiment with creating Snow Art in the rice fields, once the crops have been harvested. Snow shoes are used to walk on the snowfields, creating patterns as the light and shade penetrate into the uneven tread;patterns that can be seen from an observation deck. There are also workshops that let you enjoy the snow and wintertime.

Tambo Art in the winter “Snow Art” (Courtesy of Inakadate Village)

    Meanwhile, Gyoda City holds a number of events such as rice field planting, viewings, rice harvesting and cuisine in the form of hands-on art that uses your five senses and your whole body. Tambo Art is also produced in collaboration the world-famous game series "Dragon Quest” and a TV drama set in Gyoda City. Once the rice is harvested, huge works of art are created using the straw from the rice plants used in Tambo Art.

A collaborative piece with the popular game series “Dragon Quest” (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art. - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

A collaborative piece with the popular game series “Dragon Quest” (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art. - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

Straw art, made from dried straw from harvested rice plants (Courtesy of Gyoda City Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

Gyoda City’s “Omote-nashi Katchutai” (hospitality armored corps) holding a bag of “Sai-no-kagayaki” rice harvested from Tambo Art and a bowl of it cooked (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

Gyoda City’s “Omote-nashi Katchutai” (hospitality armored corps) holding a bag of “Sai-no-kagayaki” rice harvested from Tambo Art and a bowl of it cooked (Courtesy of Gyoda City - Council for the Promotion of Tambo Art - Rice Growing Hands-on Sessions)

    More than 100 organizations across Japan make Tambo Art. Tambo Art will no doubt continue to delight many viewers in the future, as it deepens regional ties and also contributes to the promotion of agriculture and sightseeing PR.

Drawings of snow leopards, wolves and ezo deer under the theme of "nocturnal animals." Higashitakasu, Asahikawa City, Hokkaido (courtesy of the JA Taisetsu Tanbo Art Committee)

An annual design, named after Miyazawa Kenji - a poet and children's author from Hanamaki City in Iwate Prefecture. (courtesy of Hachiman Town Planning Council)

“Stork” theme (courtesy of the Tanto Silk Road Tourist Council)

“Stork” theme (courtesy of the Tanto Silk Road Tourist Council)

On the left is Takamori Saigo - an historical figure who contributed to the modernization of Japan. On the right is “Ocha Murai” a character from Minami-Kyushu City. Created in 2017 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Minami-Kyushu City as a city (courtesy of Minami-Kyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture)

On the left is Takamori Saigo - an historical figure who contributed to the modernization of Japan. On the right is "Ocha Murai" a character from Minami-Kyushu City. Created in 2017 to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the establishment of Minami-Kyushu City as a city (courtesy of Minami-Kyushu City, Kagoshima Prefecture)

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