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Rice Paddy Planting

April 27, 2016
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Spring Season

A Japanese farmer plants rice seedlings in his rice paddy.

A farmer plants rice seedlings in a partially flooded paddy in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

Japanese farmers have been in full force in their rice paddies in the last couple of weeks. As a result, once dry plots of farming land have suddenly been transformed  into flooded lakes of emerging greenery.

Rice farmers ride atop specially designed planting machines to embed neat rows of rice seedlings into the mud of their paddies.    The machines have large, broadly ribbed wheels designed for water and deep, boggy mud in the flooded rice paddies.

The machines come equipped with various arrangements of rotary planter mechanisms, fertilizer delivery boxes and driver seat positioning, amongst other features and components.

A rice seedling planting machine is loaded with seedling mats and fertilizer, ready to sow the season's rice crop.

A Kubota designed rice planting machine is fully loaded with rice seedling mats and fertilizer, and is ready to enter the flooded rice paddy to sow the season’s rice crop.

The machines typically vary in size from approximately 3-10 feet in width, with each planting a similarly varied number of seedling rows at a time.  The selection of the machinery is made depending on the size of rice paddies to be planted and the capitalization of the farming operations.

Rice seedling stock is germinated from seed in densely packed seedling trays during late Winter.  By Spring, the crowded seedlings form a sturdy mat of roots topped with vibrant 4-5 inch high blade leaves.

In preparation for planting, the young rice seedlings are removed from their germination trays as a complete mat and loaded onto the planter delivery systems at the rear of the machines.  Additional mats of seedlings are also stacked on racks by the farmers’ side, where they can be easily accessed and later loaded into the planting mechanism when seedling re-fills are required. This saves overly regular returns to the edge of the flooded rice paddy for seedling re-fills.

The rotating mechanism on the rear of the machines takes the  individual seedlings from the trays and inserts them into the water. The fragile seedling roots are embedded into the mud a few inches beneath the rice paddy’s water level.  Once planted and paddies are fully flooded, only a portion of the plants’ leaves appear above the surface of the water.

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Onion Harvesting Machines in Japan

July 3, 2015
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Rows of mature Japanese onions on raised soil mounds.

Rows of mature Japanese onions within raised soil mounds in Ibaraki, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

summer-seasonJapanese onion harvesting machines save a huge amount of time and effort for the farmers of rural Japan.  The machines automatically pull the individual plants from the ground, remove soil, cut away excess root material and present the stalks to the operators for neat bundling.

Non-bulbous straight onions (commonly known as “Japanese Onion”, or “Naga-negi” lit: long onion in Japanese) are a popularly farmed vegetable in Japan. We have written about this particular variety of onion in the past, so if you want more information about it’s farming and general use in Japan, please check our original post here.

Japanese onions are usually grown within mounded rows of soil approximately 3 feet apart and 1 foot high.  The mounds are formed during the growing season, as a machine is used to partially bury the plants from the side to provide development of the desired long, white stalks below ground level.  This growing arrangement is also suitable for providing access to the harvesting machines that straddle each row during harvest.

Skip to the bottom of this page to view a video of a typical onion harvesting machine in action.

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

A Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine makes fast work of harvesting an onion field in Ibaraki, Prefecture, Japan.
(Click to Enlarge)

Onions are automatically pulled from the ground, de-soiled and de-rooted using a Japanese designed onion harvesting machine.

Japanese farmers use a Kobashi HG100 onion harvesting machine to save themselves from back breaking work.
(Click to Enlarge)

Machine harvesting of Japanese onions requires at least two operators for efficient workflow.   Many farms plots however, are owned by individual families, so harvesting tasks are shared amongst family members to reduce workloads and to get the crop to market more quickly.

Harvesting machines have an automated uprooting system towards the front of the machine and a bundling and cutting area at the back.

The first part of the uprooting section is equipped with angled guide wheels that run along either side of the deep onion rows.  Along with the main rear tracks, these wheels help the machine stay on course as it moves.
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Making DIY Miso Paste with Soy Beans (Half Year Update)

June 28, 2015
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DIY Miso Paste made from Soy Beans is mixed at six month milestone.

At the six month milestone, DIY Miso paste requires mixing of the blended Soy Bean ingredients to help development of flavor.

Spring SeasonMiso paste is an ancient Japanese preparation with origins dating back almost a thousand years. The pungent fermented food has an acquired taste, but is extremely healthy as an addition to many popular Japanese dishes.

We wrote about making Miso earlier in the year in our blog post here.

We also produced a step-by-step guide to making DIY Miso paste for those interested in having a shot at making it at home themselves.

With our DIY paste having quietly sat in a cool place for almost half a year, it is about to enter a new Summer phase of fermentation. It was therefore time to re-visit our DIY Miso paste to give it a good thorough mixing to help aerate and redistribute the fermentation culture to ensure development of a rich and consistent taste.

Our home Miso paste project was started in late Winter, which we timed so that ingredients and base flavors had a chance to soak together and spread evenly throughout the entire mixture before Summer heat arrived. The next Summer phase however, is when the real added flavor and character of the Miso develops. As the temperature rises, the fermentation culture kicks into overdrive.

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Lettuce Harvest in Japan

March 4, 2015
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A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under a frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki, Japan.

A sea of gradually maturing lettuce plants grow under frost protection tunnels in Ibaraki Prefecture, Japan.

winter-seasonWith greenhouses providing much of the warmth for germination and growth of lettuce seedlings in the Winter season, lettuce plants really don’t need much time in the ground in growing plots before being ready to harvest.  Growing conditions are suitable for multiple, staggered crops of lettuce almost year round in Japan.  All for except the peak Summer periods.

We mentioned the planting out process of lettuce in an earlier post, but in Ibaraki Prefecture, the last week or two has already seen the commencement of harvesting activity for some of that Winter grown lettuce crop.  Ibaraki Prefecture is an area well known for contributing to a significant portion of Japan’s annual 530,000 tonne  production quota.  The Ibaraki farming regions help supply the lettuce market demands of many cities within and surrounding the prefecture, including Tokyo.

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Greenhouse Farming in Japan

February 8, 2015
By

winter-seasonJapanese Winter temperatures plunge below freezing on a regular basis, despite skies often being bright, clear and sunny.  In these low temperatures, seed germination is usually impossible and growth usually grinds to a halt in any open air farming environment.  Snow and frost damage is also a very likely risk for most unprotected crops.   Greenhouses are therefore an important part of farming in Japan for both large and small scale operations.  Die hard DIY gardeners also use greenhouses to produce home grown food for their close knit families, friends and communities.

Winter Greenhouse Farming

Snow engulfs the greenhouses of a private DIY gardener in Japan.

Japanese greenhouses

Commercial scale greenhouses sit in the bright sunshine and bitterly cold Winter air in Japan.

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Replacing Japanese Tatami Mat Flooring

February 6, 2015
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Japanese Tatami Room

A traditional Japanese tatami room with floor panels made of Igusa (rush) straw fibre.

Tatami rooms are a wonderful part of many Japanese homes. They are elegant and stylish.

But look up “Japanese tatami room” in any Japanese DIY handyman’s manual and within the first few paragraphs, any guide will likely mention the notorious requirement for constant care, cleaning and replacement of materials in order to maintain their appearance.

Most materials used in the construction and decoration of traditional tatami rooms are natural fiber products, including raw pine wood, rush fiber and rice paper. The rooms look and smell great when they are fresh and new, but deteriorate, yellow and mould with age.

Earlier, we provided tips for renewing aged and discolored rice paper on the Japanese Shoji paper doors of tatami rooms. Now we turn our focus to replacing tatami floor panels – a larger, more expensive and somewhat more involved renewal job.

Watch the making of Japanese tatami mats on Youtube here.

Traditional tatami floor panels are usually made from neatly woven mats of rush fibre (ie: Igusa plant) stretched over and sewn onto thick blocks of compacted straw from the same plant.

In recent years, lighter weight, synthetically backed tatami flooring panel alternatives have also become available. Some are often considered significantly inferior by traditionalists, but they do have benefits.

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Making Miso from Soy Beans – We’re all go!

January 18, 2015
By
Japanese miso paste

Japanese miso paste

winter-seasonA couple of weeks back we announced that we had received a DIY Miso making pack in preparation for our trek back into Japanese tradition and the ancient techniques of preparing this unique Japanese food. (The earlier story is here).

The DIY Miso kit was purchased from a special Miso manufacturing company called “Komego“, located in Fukui, Japan.  (At this stage, the company only supplies the kits to customers within Japan and website and all kit instructions are only written in Japanese.)

A complete step-by-step guide to how we made our Miso paste is provided here. We will update this guide as we continue fermentation and eventually re-mix and finally eat the Miso later in the year.

Japanese are usually very particular about the differing types and tastes of foods as produced by specialist regions of Japan.  Miso products are no different.  Various types of Miso can be produced with the taste depending on the origin of specific ingredients and the specific regional preparation techniques employed to make the paste. Read more »

Making Miso from Soy Beans (Part 1) – Received our DIY kit.

January 10, 2015
By

misobucketwinter-seasonToday at HomeDIYStuff.com, we received a project pack for making our own Miso.  Miso is a very healthy, traditional food in Japan.  It is a fermented bean paste that is extremely important in the everyday diets of most Japanese.  A wide variety of miso pastes are used in Miso soup, ramen (noodle) soup, as condiment and in general, in an extremely wide selection of other everyday foods.

Miso paste takes many months to make as it is made from the gradual yeast fermentation of Soy beans.  When prepared and left to to sit over time, the bean paste takes on the consistency of something resembling Peanut Butter … but obviously with a considerably different taste! 

The paste adds a relatively a strong, distinctive Japanese taste and pungent oriental fragrance to dishes. The manufacture of Miso paste is quite an art and flavors can vary greatly depending on the Soy beans used and techniques used to make paste.  It varies from quite a light taste with a soft yellow color, to thick and strong taste with a dark tan color.

Unfortunately, traditional home made Miso paste has gone somewhat like that of DIY jam making in other countries.  Die hards still do make it, but for the vast, busy majority, it is usually cheaper and far more convenient to simply purchase commercially made brands from the supermarket.

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Japanese Miso – DIY Fermentation Project Complete

November 20, 2014
By

winter-season

DIY Japanese Miso Cracker Dip

We have completed the fermentation of our DIY Japanese Miso Paste from raw soy beans.  The Miso making was a great success.

Many readers could be forgiven for reacting with an “Eeuuuwwwww!” upon seeing some of the photos of this process, but believe us, the final miso paste product is extremely tasty.  And healthy too!

It has been almost a full year since we started making our paste. The fermentation started in cold Winter months early in the year, soon after when we first discussed home DIY miso making. We later provided a full DIY how-to of miso making guide” when we started the mix, where we showed the ingredients required in the preparation and the techniques used.

Time has flown by. We provided a half year report on the progress of our fermentation project when the soy bean paste received a good mixing just prior to the arrival of Summer’s full heat. At the time, being exposed to only cool temperatures, little had changed in our premature miso paste and there wasn’t even a thread of flavor altering mold to be seen.

Given five extra months of development and an a blast of Japanese Summer heat in between, and that all changed!

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Natural Mole Eradication – Red Spider Lily

September 9, 2014
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Red Spider Lily Flower (Japanese: Higanbana)

The striking Red Spider Lily Flower (Japanese: Higanbana) – protector against moles and burrowing rodents.

fall-seasonMoles can be a major problem for gardeners, farmers and groundskeepers around the world.

While moles are carnivorous and mainly eat only earthworms, grubs and insect larva, they can cause immense cosmetic damage to surface soil and can also kill or damage plant roots as they dig their tunnels, mounds and nests.

Various methods are available for controlling mole populations,  but the eradication options are quite unsavory.  With moles being somewhat difficult to trap, relocation is usually not possible. Ridding an area of moles therefore usually involves gassing, chemical use, spiking, or other methods of physically injuring the animals.

When it comes to rice paddies in rural parts of Japan, burrowing moles create an additional significant headache for paddy farmers.

When these furry critters make their homes on the edges and surrounds of rice paddies, their tunneling activities can damage and puncture water containment banks. This can lead to significant crop losses if the paddies unknowingly drain of water and rice plants are left high and dry.

Japanese farmers have used an effective natural deterrent for controlling mole and rodent populations around rice growing regions for centuries.  It doesn’t however, appear to be a technique that is widely used elsewhere in the world.
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