Japan's Rice Field of Dreams

Rice farming has sustained the people of northern Japan's Inakadate village for two thousand years. Today, the ancient rice fields are the source of food and art.

Up close, the stalks of rice look like any other found in a rice paddy. CBS News correspondent Celia Hatton reports there are several varieties planted here, each with different colored leaves. Combine them together and an enormous 15,000 square foot image is revealed.

Every year, a local art teacher produces a computerized sketch. It's transferred onto a grid, and mapped with thousands of dots. It's then painstakingly recreated - point by point onto the rice field.

Then, it's a family affair as villagers of all generations join in to hand-plant each rice shoot. Three months later, the rice field of dreams comes alive in sweeping images.

But it wasn't always as easy to appreciate. At the start in 1993, the first designs by the artists were clunky and flat. The newer images don't look like much if seen from the wrong angle. But climb six stories up and the custom-built viewing tower offers a perfect perspective.

Former city worker Koichi Hanada dreamed up this idea. He says before the art, villagers only had each other to talk to. Now, people all over Japan know this place.

The small corner of the country has just 8,400 people. Yet, 170,000 visitors came just last year. This success has lead to inevitable imitations. Mural madness is flourishing in paddies across Japan.

In the end, art made from rice can't last forever, as harvest wipes the field clean. But for now, rice, a staple of Japan's cuisine, fills the stomach as well as the soul.
  • Celia Hatton

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