As any of the locals will tell you, Japan has four distinct seasons. It’s late spring here, which means that some fields are planted and others are being prepared for crops. Today, in this fourth set of pictures from my April 30th bike trip, I’ll show you what some of the farm wives in this country have to go through. As you’ll see, it’s less of a farming club and more of a labour camp for grandmothers.
I think the powder this woman is spreading on the field is fertilizer. The green nozzle is attached to her backpack. She shakes the nozzle from side to side to get the powder to flow.
A view of her back. The fertilizer pack is like a giant cake icing bag, but one that’s activated by shaking and gravity rather than squeezing.
Here she is again, putting on her pack after having refilled it at her truck.
This lady seems to be spraying weed killer at the edge of the field. It’s hard to tell from the picture, but she has a face mask, heavy rubber gloves, and a plastic or rubber apron. On her back she has a metal tank that looks like a giant-sized hip flask. There’s some sort of pump-action lever mechanism to make the spray come out. On the other side of her are some onions and some mystery vegetables.
This last picture is of the fertilizer lady in the context of the fields. The shrine where I took the frog pictures is in the woods at the base of the hill. It’s not visible in this photo, but you’d walk right into it if you went straight toward the centre of the picture, through the low brown houses and then through the trees. The grey gate in the right side of the photo is the shrine’s first torii.
I don’t know what to say about the fashion choices in these pictures. The way farmers dress—for protection from the harsh sun—doesn’t surprise me any more, especially after I’ve been out biking without sunblock for a day and come home with a nasty sunburn..
These farms are fairly typical, if a bit small, for the region. When I biked through here late last summer, I saw rows and rows of eggplant, as well as the post-harvest remains of cucumber vines. The small size of the fields—in Saskatchewan some of these wouldn’t even be considered garden plots—probably accounts for the intense manual labour since they don’t seem big enough to justify the purchase of machines.
Which begs the question: what are the men up to? I rarely see them working the fields, aside from driving rice planters or harvesters—each are about the size of a subcompact car—or using radio-controlled helicopters to spray the crops. Their absence in the fields could also be due to the proliferation of Pachinko parlours across rural Japan. Meanwhile, these elderly ladies—I’d guess they are in their sixties or seventies—seem to do most of the work.
[The next post in this series is Rural Kitakyushu: Reservoir Mobs]