●Rice Harvesting in Iizaka
Last spring in a small paddy field in Iizaka I joined some friends and locals to plant rice by hand. This time we returned to the same place to reap the benefits of our hard work! The rice had grown tall and strong. It was gently blowing in the breeze and was ready to be harvested. After a quick demonstration of how to cut and tie the rice we were all given a small hand scythe and set to work. 
A large crowd of participants had assembled including local children, footballers and us foreign participants. Everybody set to work with a lot of smiles and energy and we cleared the rice field in no time. Cutting the rice plants was easy, but tying them together was hard. I can see there is some skill involved and I was not so good at it, but I really enjoyed the experience. In spite of this I was surprised how quickly we harvested all the rice. I think the local grasshoppers and frogs were pretty surprised too! And with so much spare time left at the end we could enjoy chasing them around the field and looking at all their pretty colours and patterns.
After the work was completed we were taken into the nearby kitchen and shown how to make rice balls. I had never made one before and was delighted to learn how. It was a lot of fun, but very hot on my hands. I will have to make some more at home in the future and build up some resistance to the heat. When they were done we grilled them on a barbeque before sitting down to enjoy a delicious meal together. It was so nice to share something we had made with new friends and enjoy talking and getting to know each other. I really cherish these experiences in Iizaka and I can't wait to go back again. 

Cormac Ryan