Rice Paddy Art Decorates the Lush Greenery Along the Akita Inland Line

Guide to Japan Travel

Passengers on the Akita Inland Line, which runs between Kakunodate and Takanosu in Akita Prefecture, are treated to panoramas of rice paddies and tree-covered hills. And every summer volunteers create works of rice-paddy art along this train line, using ornamental varieties of rice plants with colors including black, white, and brown against the background of green.

This year there are five works on display for travelers’ enjoyment, four of which include Akita dogs. One depicts a dog gazing at a lighted paper balloon; this represents the spectacular festival held every winter in the community of Kamihinokinai, where huge hot-air balloons of paper fill the night sky. In another work, a representation of Mount Fuji is accompanied by the two Chinese characters expressing Reiwa, the name of the imperial reign era that started in May this year. In a third, a dog looks up at a kantō, a long bamboo pole decked with rows of lanterns; these brightly lit poles parade at Akita Kantō Matsuri, a stupendous summer festival held in the capital of Akita Prefecture. In a fourth work, what looks like an angry monster looking down at a dog is a namahage, a divinity that visits homes to ward off misfortune and tell children to be good; the tradition of visits by people in the guise of such divinities, which is practiced in various parts of Japan, has been inscribed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage list. And in a final scene, two Akita dogs flank Isedō-kun, a character in the shape of a clay figurine from Japan’s prehistoric Jōmon period; this character is the mascot of the Isedōtai archeological site, where extensive Jōmon remains have been unearthed. A small museum has been built near the Isedōtai site, and efforts are underway to have this and other Jōmon sites in northern Japan added to UNESCO’s World Heritage list in 2021.

The best period for viewing this year’s rice-paddy art from the Akita Inland Line will extend through early September. Passengers can also enjoy the photographs of Akita dogs decorating train car interiors. A ride on this line is sure to be fun for both dog lovers and train fans.

(Originally published in Japanese. Created in cooperation with Cable Networks Akita.)

train tourism Tōhoku Akita rice paddy Akita-inu