Posted by Heliocentrism on January 10, 2016
Sunday, June 7, 2015
There aren’t too many foreigners in Miyoshi, but apparently half of them are named “Mark”. The guy in the photo next to Mark, is Mark’s friend, Mark. He is also from Michigan, not too far from where Mark grew up. They have similar hobbies, opinions, and likes and sometimes it’s hard to distinguish which one is being talked about.
So how did they end up like that?
Well, Mark was talking to some lady at work; not a co-worker, just some old lady who likes to show up and practice her English, I guess. (And we’re talking about my Mark.) She told him that the town of Mirasaka, which is a sub-division of Miyoshi, was having a rice planting festival.
Mark has planted rice before. Almost every foreigner in Japan has. It’s marketed as being part of the “Japanese experience”. If you’re lucky, no one will try to charge you for it.
Usually you get suckered in by a farming family who will “let you have a great time planting rice all afternoon” in their field. Sometimes they do give you lunch, but not always. It’s back-breaking labor and not worth a free lunch in the slightest!
I’ve never done rice planting myself, not because of any cleverness on my part, but because of shoes. I can’t find decent shoes to fit me in this country, so I’m sure as hell not ruining any of my nice shoes for a day of “fun rice planting”.
Mark did some rice planting when he worked at a pre-school in Oita. His school thought it would be fun for the little kids to plant rice. They just got really muddy and cried a lot. Those rice farmers prey on the young and naive as well as foreigners.
The old lady’s English was not that great. So Mark thought the conversation went something like this:
Lady – We’re having a rice planting festival. We don’t have many people but we need more planters and drummers.
Mark – Drummers?
Lady – Yes, drummers. Some people beat drums while other people plant rice. Are you interested?
Mark – As long as I don’t have to actually plant any rice and I get to stay clean… why not?
Lady – And bring as many of your friends as you can! No females though.
Mark sent the call out. Mostly people were interested, but there were many festivals going on in Miyoshi at the time. All of our friends were busy doing other festivals, except for Mark, the other Mark. (Okay, honestly, they heard the words “rice planting” and wanted nothing to do with this festival. Some even questioned if they should continue being friends with Mark.)
So Mark got back to the lady. She seemed disappointed that only 2 foreigners would be doing the rice planting this year. She told Mark that both he and Mark would have to come to rice planting practices every Sunday for the next 5 Sundays.
Mark – “Wait… What!?”
Yes. They had practices! Mark and Mark ended up going to only one. When he got back from the one and only practice, Mark fully understood what was going on.
Mark – The drummers did the practicing. They had been practicing for months now and it’s pretty much too late to become a drummer.
Me – So, you’re going to have to plant rice?
Mark – No, that’s only for women. Men drum. Women plant rice.
Me – So what do you do?
Everyone was quite surprised to see the Marks at the practice. There was no shortage of people as the old lady said. They had a number of participants they were very comfortable with. In fact, there was a bit of a discussion with the festival people and the old lady to figure out what the Marks could actually do during the festival. All the jobs were already taken.
During the discussion the Marks thought, “Hey, great! We’ll just leave you to do your thing. We just wanted to help because we thought you needed people, but since you don’t… I mean, we don’t really want to be here!” But the old lady would have none of that. They had promised, so they were committed.
Eventually it was decided that they would hand the women the rice to plant and wash any fallen drum sticks. These were basically token jobs. All the women had plenty of extra planting rice with them and the men clean their own sticks when they dropped them. But they didn’t do any of the hard work and stayed relatively clean.
The whole thing lasted about an hour. There was a lot of festival food. When the vendors found out the my husband was one of the Marks, they refused to let me pay for anything. In fact, they gave me more free snacks and treats for the guys.
The boys had fun, but most importantly they learned a valuable lesson. “Stay away from anything that has anything to do with rice planting!”
How to get there:
You can enter Japan by plane or boat. Though, the number of boats going to Japan from other countries has gone down significantly.
Americans get 90-day visas to Japan at the port of entry. Check with your nearest Japanese embassy or consulate for visa information.
- Emergency Numbers:
- Police 110
- Ambulance and Fire 119
- Important phone numbers to know while in Japan
- Comfort Woman
- The Commoner
- Empire of the Sun
- Flyboys: A True Story of Courage
- Geisha, a Life
- Ghost Soldiers: The Forgotten Epic Story of World War II’s Most Dramatic Mission
- The Last Concubine
- Memoirs of a Geisha
- Tears in the Darkness: The Story of the Bataan Death March and Its Aftermath
- Tokyo Vice: An American Reporter on the Police Beat in Japan
- What I Talk About When I Talk About Running
- Be careful what over the counter drugs you bring into Japan. Actifed, Sudafed, Vicks inhalers, and Codeine are prohibited.
- International ATMs are really hard to find; more so if you aren’t in a big city. Many places in Japan do not use credit cards. Take cash and call your bank to ask what ATMs or banks in Japan will work with your cash card.
- ATMs have opening hours. Usually 9:00-18:00 (They have better work hours than most business men and women here.)
- The Post Office bank seems to work with the most international cards.
- You can get a Japan Railway, pass which saves you a lot of money on the trains, but you can only buy it before you get to Japan and you cannot be a resident of Japan. (I don’t have more information about it because I’ve only ever lived in Japan; I’ve never been a tourist here.)
Miyoshi City (Hiroshima Prefecture)
How to get there:
- Coordinates 34°48’11.2″N 132°51’21.9″E
Miyoshi city, Hiroshima prefecture 728-8501
- Miyoshi City
- Miyoshi City English website
- July 26th festival Official Website (Miyoshi Kinsai Festival)
- All Festivals
- This town is one of the few towns in Japan that has more than enough free parking everywhere.
- This is a small town. I know it calls itself a city, but it’s not. Nothing opens before 9:00 and everything is closed by 21:00. The exception being convenience stores which are always open.
- There are many Miyoshi cities in Japan. This one is in Hiroshima prefecture.
- This town is mostly known for its wine (and lack of Starbucks).