Japanese Village Creates Living Rice Paddy Art

The rice paddies of the tiny village of Inakadate in rural Japan are a sea of swaying green, yellow, white, pale brown and purple stalks, but they also hold a secret that draws thousands of visitors every year — and it's only revealed with a bird's eye view. From a skyward position on a nearby observation tower, visitors can view intricate artworks, freshly created each year. The rice paddy art — known as tanbo art — has included incredibly detailed reproductions of Leonardo da Vinci's Mona Lisa, as well Marilyn Monroe in her iconic flying skirt. These and many other images over the years, are created by a carefully designed planting of different types of rice in various hues. The village's rice paddy art tradition began in 1993 when purple and yellow rice shoots were planted by about 20 volunteers to form its first famous image — Mt. Iwaki, a three-peaked mountain about 932 miles from Inakadate. Since then, the tourist trade has become so vital to the rural village that officials constructed an observation tower at a nearby government building so visitors could view the artwork from above during its peak season: mid-June until early October. Fast forward to the present, and Inakadate's rice art is an attraction as staple as the rice dishes offered by nearby vendors. Visitors pay between 300 and 500 yen (between $2.50 and $4) to view the tanbo art, while some tourists pay to take part in a harvesting experience at the conclusion of the rice paddy's growing season.