Why Niigata? Literally

Novelist Moved by the Farmers' Iron Spirit

The following is an excerpt from a manuscript by a Japanese novelist about farming in Niigata:

Golden ears of rice flourish rippling across wide plains.
Niigata has long stood out as Japan’s top producer of rice in both quality and quantity.
So it is no exaggeration to say that today’s Niigata embodies every farmer’s ideal.

However, until just recently, scenes as depicted in the above photograph were the unmistakable reality of what it meant to grow rice in Niigata.

These farmers sank up to their shoulders in snowmelt water for planting seedlings.
Can such labor even be called farming?
Even if not a novelist, one must be deeply moved by their endless plight.

“But that was in the old days!”
Some may scoff while others avert their eyes, taking it as a relic of a dark past.
Still others may praise the long-suffering farmers as heroes who turned swampy paddies into Japan’s greatest rice-producing region, or again, tout this transformation as a testament to the brilliant success of irrigation, drainage, and reclamation engineering after World War II.

Yet, things are not that simple.
Or above all, this is not only a matter of agriculture.
Indeed, each and every resident of the Niigata Plain today, or those who all live in modern civilization, and moreover our children who will lead the next age, will face serious problems.