I jump at the chance of doing anything that's cultural whilst here in Japan so when I heard that we could watch a wedding and do some rice harvesting at the famous senmaida rice paddies in the Noto Penninsula I jumped on the first bus there (7am on a Sunday morning mind!)
Every year, apparently, there's a competition for 2 couples to get married at Senmaida rice paddies, a stunning location overlooking the sea, in a "go to town" lavish ceremony. When I got there the place was packed with photographers, journalists, TV crews and locals. The ceremony, which had already started, was taking place on a purpose built stage.
Stage for the wedding overlooking the sea
The ceremony lasted about 1 1/2 hrs and it was all rather formal. I actually learnt through a friend (who gets paid to feign a catholic priest and conducts weddings here) that the Japanese can have any religious ceremony they choose whether it be Shinto, Christian, Buddhist and they don't have to be practicing. For example, a couple can choose to have a Christian style ceremony at a Christian church even though they're not Christian. It's big business here and a lot of the hotels will have built in European looking chapels for couples to create that authentic experience!
Shinto priest conducting the wedding ceremony
Back to this wedding; a traditional Shinto ceremony as a shinto priest was conducting it. Both brides wore the most equisite, brightly coloured wedding kimonos (known as "uchikake") I've ever seen.
After the ceremony 2 dancers, a male and female, came onto the stage to entertain the company with a traditional fan dance.
The couples were then invited to cut some rice with a small sickle (rice cutter).
Me and my rice sickle
When it was all over we went and joined the locals to help harvest the rice which involved cutting it with sickles and laying it in piles of 6 bunches ready to be tied together into bundles by some strong hay type string.
Local helping Erika tie up the bundles of rice crop
The rice bundles are then hung out on huge wooden rice racks to dry out.
Rice crop drying racks
At Senmaida each row of rice crop has a different owner and hence a name post at the end of each row. We ended up cutting a row that was owned by a local businessman who didn't look like he wanted to get his hands dirty so I guess we did him a favour! The local news journalist took a billion photos of us (hard to look glam cutting rice crop) so I'm sure we'll end up in some Noto paper.
Owners name on post therefore his row of rice crop
After cutting we were all given a free lunch of rice balls and pork stew, yum. After a quick TV interview (only ones proficient in Japanese, i.e not me) I set off home. Fab day and well worth the early start.