When still in the chill of Winter, it is hard to think of rice paddies being lush and green ever again. But as sure as the sun rises in the East, the warmth of Spring will bring plant growth bounding back at a moments notice.
Therefore, it is already time for Japanese rice farmers to start thinking about the chores required to get the dry, brown paddies back into a state where they can soon be re-flooded and re-planted with rice seedlings again in the next few months.
One important chore is to burn the stands of dry grass and weeds that have accumulated around the edges of the plots since the last harvest. Reducing debris and grass seed nearby before planting is a basic measure to help control weeds and insects later in the growing season. One thing is for sure. Standing by a warm grass fire on a sunny Winter’s day is far easier work than clambering through knee deep mud to eradicate a weed invasion in the middle of a rice paddy in late Spring.
With the Japanese culture being what it is, burning off around paddies is also part of keeping farming areas neat and tidy in general. Appearance and good maintenance of growing areas is an important part of Japanese farming. Not only for the purposes of quality of production, but also as a show of community pride.
The concept of strong community is shared across most fields of Japanese farming. For regions where there are larger expanses of land with paddies owned by many surrounding farmers, the main burn-off day is usually organized as community orientated event where everyone pitches in to help with what they can.