Around 40 years ago farmers were really working hard by doing many things by their own hands : bending over rice fields they cut a handful rice plant at the ground level one after another ; they made them up a bundle and dry by hanging on bamboo pole supported by x shaped pillars on the fields for about a week then threshed the grains using machine.
Today by this machine he can harvest rice and rice grains automatically get into sacks ! Only he has to do is to dry grains by machine and thresh.
Rice is not just a stable crop for the Japanese but something more spiritual thing. Till some years ago grandmother used to tell her grandchildren not to leave even one grain of rice in the rice bowl when they finish their meals, because special spirit named “kami-sama” something like god is in each grain of rice.
When we start our meals we say ” itadakimasu “: simply I am going to have this, with hands join together in praying form. In this way we thank to everybody : farmers, mothers, good weather, special spirit who gives this, etc. When we finish our meals we say “gochisousamadesita” : meaning something like “I had delicious meal”, again thanks to everybody especially to”kami-sama”
On the small island named Ohmishima there is an old Shinto Shrine : there every year very unique Sumo ( something like wrestling ) is held. We can see only one man very seriously have a bout with himself. Actually he is having a bout with kami-sama, of course invisible, of rice. When “kami-sama wins…of course kami-sama wins… we can see the man is thrown on the rink…by himself, we can be sure good rice harvest in coming autumn.
Until the end of the feudal age of Japan rice was used to measure the wealth of feudal lords and samurais ( warriors ) received rice from their lord as a salary. It is obvious they could not carry rice to buy anything, so they change their rice with money at the big merchants. Gradually money started talks. Samurai who was the ruling class often had to borrow money from merchant who was put the lowest rank of the society. By the middle of the 19th century feudal system could not continue in Japan and at the same time foreign pressure started persistent : eventually Shogun era was over.
For you, who would like to travel in Kyoto,
Johnnie Hillwalker’s Kyoto walking tour
Kyoto Private guide, Shihoko Hirooka, Kyoto private guide