August 05 2019
The Perilous Lifestyle Of A ‘Japan – 100 Hidden Towns’ Contributor – Chapter 3 – Getting Myself In A Paddy
I have nothing against rice.
Although I come from a time and place where children were raised on a daily diet of deep-fried potatoes and white bread – often together in the same meal – I have in later life taken great pleasure from other, more exotic, sources of starchy carbohydrates – pasta from Italy, couscous from the Middle East and, of course, rice from Asia.
So why has Japanese rice got it in for me?
Perhaps it once jealously overheard me utter that I also quite like basmati rice from India, or jasmine rice from Thailand? Well, it was nothing personal!! I like you all!! Certainly, I don’t think that my inclusive attitude warranted the vengeful treatment meted out on me by Japanese rice as I travelled around the country researching articles for Japan – 100 Hidden Towns!
On several occasions, I believe I have found myself the victim of what I can only describe as a campaign of serial retribution.
Allow me to expand…
On just my second trip for the book, myself and my good lady wife visited Chihayaakasaka in Osaka Prefecture – a hilly, rural area endowed with a sweeping, bowl-like expanse of paddies that I particularly wanted to photograph from a few different vantage points. However, as with many of these trips, I was dependent on an infrequent public transport service – and the next bus was due to depart in less than half an hour.
With no further ado, I darted off down the slopes with my backpack bobbing behind me, promising to return within 20 minutes.
My pulse raced as I jogged around the ramshackle lanes between terraces, snapping away while the sinking afternoon sunlight illuminated the scene around me.
In this feverish dash to capture the beauty of the scene from every angle, I failed to notice one particularly massive rupture in the concreted surface of the road. Demonstrating my burgeoning talent for slapstick photography, I caught my toe on the rift and executed a semi-demi-somersault with twist, while my camera performed its own shotgun spin with twizzle into a nearby bush.
On this occasion, there was little damage done to myself or to my camera, and by hobbling back to the bus stop while staunching the flow of blood from my grazed palms, I managed both to get the bus, and the shot! Hoorah!
The second of my grapples with the grain was more ignominious.
On this occasion I was deep in the heart of Chiba Prefecture, visiting another beautiful rice field at Oyama, a 30-minute bus ride from Kamogawa Town.
The view of Oyama’s 375 rice paddies, terraced and winding around the mountainside, is a wonderful sight to behold, and I had spent a blissful afternoon taking photos as the setting winter sun cast its golden glow over the scene.
Through the winter months, there is also a ‘lighting-up’ event every evening, when the ridges of each contour become illuminated by small lights as the day becomes night. After remaining in the gathering chill to witness this coda, I contentedly wandered the 1-kilometre, unlit road back down to the bus stop.
Unable to resist admiring the fruits of my photographic labours, my attention was diverted to the display of my camera screen for a few moments… just long enough for me to unwittingly veer from the centre of the road, and into a metre-deep irrigation ditch used to supply water to the surrounding rice paddies.
I capsized dramatically, and took several seconds before I regained my sense of up and down… waist-deep, wet, bruised and ridiculous. I clambered out of the ditch and limped back to the bus shelter, where I was then assailed by a local who insisted on telling me at great length all about his new bicycle, while I anxiously searched for an appropriate shelter where I could quickly relieve my neglected bladder before the once-every-two-hourly bus arrived.
Mercifully, the remoteness of many of the locations in Japan – 100 Hidden Towns ensured that most of my painful pratfalls have gone unwitnessed by anyone except you, Dear Reader. There is more than a grain of truth in the old adage: “Embarrassment is a villain to be crushed.”