2005

Every year, farmers in the village of Inakadate, Aomori Prefecture, plant beautiful natural murals in the fields using different varieties of rice. The practice began in 1994, and now hundreds of thousands of people visit the tiny village each summer to see their rice paddy art.

But it’s not just planted rice they’ve been drawing pictures with. Underneath one of those rice fields, another hidden gem has been lurking – a world map! And it’s there for all to see…on Google Maps.

Before 2012, when it was turned over for rice art, this paddy was originally designed as an attraction called ‘chikyū-ike‘, or “world lake”; a landscaped area of earth and water in this impressive world map design!

Google

If you’re screwing up your face at that map now trying to figure out why it doesn’t look like the world maps you’re used to, that’s because it’s a Japan-centred map.

▼ Otherwise known as a Pacific-centred map. Why should the Atlantic have all the fun?

Pacific Centred Map

Wikimedia/Sémhur

The original idea was to plant the world map paddy with different rices of the world, but that plan never came to fruition, and in 2012 the world idea was ditched, with the field becoming part of the village’s rice art project. It’s not clear whether the map design is still there under the flooded paddy – rice fields are pretty wet, after all – or whether it was flattened and re-landscaped entirely.

It looked pretty different at this year’s rice art event, anyway!

▼ Up close…

0608tanbo2Hirosakikodomo

▼ And from a distance!

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Local people hit on the idea of creating rice art in 1994, after discovering that rice had been grown in the area for two thousand years. Alongside their local green-leafed tsugaru-roman rice, villagers grow purple and yellow-leafed rice to make these elaborate designs.

The project is credited with revitalising the area and now brings 200,000 visitors every year to the tiny village, which has a population of just 8,000.

Sources: hirosaki keizai, livedoor, inakadatemura
Featured image: Inakadatemura blog