Otaue Matsuri: the rice planting festival

23 Jun 2017 in Food Culture

With rice such an integral part of the Japanese diet, it’s no wonder rice planting is celebrated across the country. Discover the Otaue Matsuri festival experience!


From sushi and sake to senbei crackers and wagashi sweet treats, Japanese cuisine is dominated by rice. Which makes the period from May to June an important one in Japan – because it’s the peak time for planting rice seedlings, just before the rainy season arrives.

Rice bowl in Japan

Rice is such a central part of Japanese culture that the word for cooked rice, gohan, has come to mean “meal”, whether it’s asagohan (breakfast), hirugohan (lunch), or bangohan (dinner). And even if consumption has decreased in recent years, more than half of Japanese farmers still grow rice – making it by far the most popular crop.

Asian rice

The season for rice planting is full of traditions, with festivals known as Otaue Matsuri held at Shinto shrines all over the country. Perhaps the most famous of all is at the Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine in Osaka. It dates back over a thousand years, and attending it is like travelling back in time to another era.

Otaue Matsuri rice festival

Proceedings kick off with oxen pulling wooden ploughs. Next, rows of traditionally-dressed people wade into the mud to plant the seedlings – accompanied by musicians playing ancient instruments and dancers praying for a good harvest.

Rice planting festival

You’ll even get to see a procession of samurai in full armour. And, for the festival’s climax, 150 local girls dance with bell-adorned fans. It’s truly a unique experience.

The Sumiyoshi Taisha Shrine festival takes place mid-June every year. HOSHINOYA Kyoto makes a great base for heading out on a day trip. And when you get back, you’ll be able to sample some of chef Ichiro Kubota’s famed dishes – including, of course, a good dose of Japanese rice.

(Copyrights Otaue Matsuri images : ©japanagrinews )

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