How to farm a great work of art

In the rice paddies of Inakadate, artistic immortality blooms in the summer, and then is harvested.

By Andrew Leonard

Published July 20, 2007 4:04PM (EDT)

For years the rice farmers of Inakadate, Japan, have been planting extraordinary works of art in paddy fields. By painstakingly mixing rice seedlings that bear purple, yellow and green leaves, they've managed to create a succession of images that must be seen to be believed. This year, the pride of Inakadate is a rendition of one of the most famous works of Japanese art of all time, "The Great Wave of Kanagawa," one of Hokusai's legendary "36 Views of Mount Fuji." (For the real thing, look here.)

The Japan-focused blogs Maochan and Pink Tentacle brought this year's artistic harvest to my attention, but previous efforts have been well blogged -- including by the town itself. But I like this year's the best.

Hokusai was obsessed with Mount Fuji, explains one critic, by way of Wikipedia, because of an ancient Japanese legend that associates the mountain with immortality. Hundreds of years after Hokusai's death, his works are living and breathing -- literally! -- an immortality that most artists can only dream of. But like Japan's famous cherry blossoms, these works of art also die. To be immortal and mortal, simultaneously, is a paradox worthy of the most whimsical Zen master.

Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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