Harvest season in Rikuzentakata starts with something called ine-kari, or “rice plant cutting,” in which the stalks of the rice plant are severed from the roots and then left out to dry before the rice is collected and the grains are husked.
Rice, a staple crop throughout all of Japan, is especially important to Rikuzentakata because the locally grown rice brand Takata no Yume is one of the city’s financial lifelines following the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011. In the aftermath of the disaster, many local farmers lost hope of being able to continue their farms and their business. Luckily, due to donations and financial support from many sources, including Japan Tabacco, the rice brand Takata no Yume (which means’s “Takata’s dream”) was developed as a way to help Rikuzentakata agriculture get back up on its feet and offer a new source of revenue for the town. Another organization, Save Takata, was started to recruit people from urban areas to help work on local farms and possibly move in permanently to act as successors.
The gratitute the people of Rikuzentakata feel for those who lent their financial and emotional support was on full display at this year’s ine-kari ceremony in early October. Representatives from Japan Tabacco and Save Takata accompanied hundreds of Takata residents to ceremoniously cut some of the first rice stalks of the season.
Another way residents of Rikuzentakata celebrate the harvest and the rich culinary bounty of this region is their annual Harvest Festival, which took place this year during the last weekend in October. Vendors from all over the region came to sell produce, souvenirs, sweets, prepared foods like yakitori grilled chicken and others, and, of course, Takata no Yume rice.