What is MARUYAMA SENMAIDA?
MARUYAMA SENMAIDA is a group of rice terrace in KUMANO, MIE Prefecture, and you can see magnificent natural landscape there. There are 1,340 of small to mid sized rice fields are placed one after another on the slope where its altitude is 736m. The smallest rice field is only 0.5 square meters.
Generally the rice terrace on the sloping land is called TANADA in Japanese, and among them, the place where have steeper slope but a lot of small sized rice terrace are placed beautifully are called SENMAIDA. SENMAI means a thousand piece and DA means rice field in Japanese. You can enjoy panoramic view at SENMAIDA. Especially SENMAIDA in MARUYAMA here is famous for its magnificent natural landscape which you will never forget.
It still remains unknown when this SENMAIDA was created, but people say that there were 2,240 rice fields in the year 1601. After that, it has decreased to 530 in the year 1993, but the local government made a decision that it’s extremely important to retain this precious landscape and leave it to posterity, as this is an important site of Japanese agricultural culture. They started its restoration work in 1993, and also started the ownership system for the rice fields. And now, they are having 1,340 rice fields together with the local residents.
What is MUSHIOKURI?
MUSHIOKURI is one of the symbolic traditional events of this agricultural culture in Japan.
This event had been conducted here in MARUYAMA area for pest control up to 1953. Although at the present day it has been replaced by agricultural chemicals, obviously they didn’t have such chemicals in the past and instead they did this event, which is to say, local kids gathered at SENMAIDA and they walked around there with having charms given by the local shrine, torches, drums, and bells. And they tried to drive bugs away with fire and sound. This event contains local people’s prayer to be able to harvest as many rice as possible.
In 2004, KUMANO KODO pilgrimage route was registered as a World Heritage, with celebrating that, this event was revived. Many people such as local elementary school students, local residents, owners of SENMAIDA, and ordinary people walk around SENMAIDA wishing for a good harvest just as people in the past had done through long long time.
Why don’t you be a part of this traditional event?
This MUSHIOKURI event is hold around June to July every year.
You would better arrive there around 5:00pm before sunset, and enjoy the panoramic view with sunlight. This must be surely unforgettable view. I personally love the rice terrace in Ubud, Bali, but this MARUYAMA SENMAIDA is more organized in a beautiful way maybe because of Japanese preference or characteristics.
A lot of volunteers and staffs as well as local residents are there. You can write some messages on the plastic cup, light the candle, and put it on the rice field. You can also enjoy some local foods served there. The sightseeing ambassador sings a song to liven up the event.
Around 6:00pm, it’s getting a little dark, and staffs calmly start lighting the candles which are placed here and there in the terrace. They are not LED illumination but real fire.
Then, around 7:00pm when it gets dark, charms are delivered from shrine, and people line up to walk around the rice terrace, having torch with their hands, and singing with drums and bells. They are just keep walking and walking around the rice terrace. For each one of small small rice field, they walk and wish that it’s not harmed by bugs and harvest many good rice. Their wish floats up to the sky with fire and sound.
At the end, a big torch just like cannon is fired, as if this is the final blow to the bugs.
This spiritual and traditional event and magnificent natural view make you feel the strong engagement between rice and Japanese people.