This year, the rice field art which began with the desire to “increase the city’s population exchange as much as possible” in the era of “Hazucho” prior to the merger of the current city of Nishio celebrates its 13th anniversary. Every year, the theme is selected from folk stories passed down in Hazu. The contest for an original design is open to fifth-graders at the Nishio City Hazu Elementary School. The selected drawing is transformed into hundred points and then plotted on the rice field. And the rice planting festival was carried out in cooperation with about 30 fifth-graders at the elementary school and people who love their hometown.
The best time to watch the rice field art is mid-July. When several kinds of seedlings such as ancient rice with different colors grow and the ears of rice ripen, the patterns emerge clearly and beautifully. Also, after the harvest in autumn, we the harvested rice is cooked and the harvest festival is held where children, adults and local people eat rice balls together.
Nishio puts efforts into tourism and has a variety of events to enjoy the season. At Toba Shinmeisha, which is held nearby the rice field art, the National Intangible Folk Cultural Property of Mikawa Tobahimatsuri, a traditional event handed down 1200 years ago, takes place on the second Sunday of February each year. From March to May, there is tide picking, and from June to the beginning of July, 70,000 hydrangeas bloom along the Sanganesan skyline which spans about five kilometers from Higashihazucho to Katahara-Onsen. The Hydrangea road has majestic views along with Mikawa bay beneath the eye. The Hydrangea Festival will be held on the weekend when it is the best time to watch hydrangeas, along with a variety of events including exhibitions of productions from neighboring cities, performances on stage, and a grand lottery. Aichi Children Country will also have a vast site. There are facilities in nature that can be enjoyed throughout the day, including camping grounds, lawn plazas, children’s trains, exciting workshops, observation plazas, athletic plazas, and hiking trails. Please be sure to go out with your family to enjoy it.
The venue of the rice paddy event used to be Hazu Town in Toba District until it was merged into Nishio in 2011 in the Heisei Period. This event has been organized by “Toba fire festival protection committee” since 2007 and was then taken over by “Hazu and Furusato Council” from 2013 – a council made up of locals who love to express their area’s tradition and history. They also organize an event where they invite children to visit during the rice planting season and the harvesting season, so they can enjoy making Onigiri and appreciate the food which they helped to make.
“Toba fire festival,” which was the main feature of the rice paddy art in their tenth anniversary in 2016, has been the ritual tradition of Toba Shinmei Shrine for about 1200 years located next to the venue. Two giant torches called “suzumi,” each 5 meters tall and weighing 2 tons, are set up and lit within the grounds of the shrine, and men called “kami Otoko (literally, “god men”),” have been divided into “East” and “West” teams, jump into the flames and compete to bring out sacred trees and twelve ropes that have been placed in the fires and offer them before the altar. This event was nationally designated as an important intangible folk cultural property, known as “the unique festival in Japan.”
It is also said to be a special ritual as they predict the weather and harvest depending on from which side the rope is burned out and removed.