Tag Archives: rice

Biwako, Rice Fields, and an ELVIS License Plate

August 1, 2014, was a hot but overcast day here in Shiga Prefecture. I took a short mid-day bike ride down along Yasugawa to Biwako, rode north along the lake for a few kilometers, and then returned to Yasugawa and rode home. I carried some camera gear, including a new tripod that I wanted to try.

Trek 520 touring bike and photo gear at Biwako, north of Yasugawa.

Trek 520 touring bike and photo gear at Biwako, north of Yasugawa.

The overcast sky was nice for cycling, but it made Biwako look a bit gloomy.


A little north of Chuzu Ohashi, the bridge that crosses Yasugawa, a stand of large trees serves as a windbreak. Their trunks have been bent by the prevailing northwesterly wind from the lake.

Trees along Biwako

A few kilometers north along the lake I turned back and took a narrow road toward the Tsutsumi intersection and Japan Route 477. This is farm country, mostly rice fields.

Rice Fields with Mikamiyama in the background

Rice Fields with Mikamiyama in the background

Near the Tsutsumi intersection there is a small machine shop. The rear half of a car (an old Suzuki Jimny) is mounted high on the wall that faces the road.

Car rear half on a Wall with ELVIS fake license plate near Tsutsumi.

Car rear half on a Wall with ELVIS fake license plate near Tsutsumi.

I’ve passed that spot dozens of times, but until today I hadn’t noticed the fake license plate on the car.

ELVIS fake license plate on car rear half mounted to a wall.

ELVIS fake license plate on car rear half mounted to a wall.

So, I spotted ELVIS in Moriyama today.

Small world.

Hayama Danchi Mochitsuki 2013 video

This short video is an attempt to express the spirit of my neighborhood as we made and ate mochi (sticky rice cakes) on December 22, 2013. I did not shoot or record with a plan, so it’s pretty rough. Also, wanted to use it for teaching, so I used photos in three ways: original 4:3 aspect ratio from the camera (pillarboxed with vertical black mrgains), cropped to 16:9 aspect ratio (same as the video), and cropped with Ken Burns effects (pan, tilt, zoom).

I kept the camera aimed low to avoid shots that might embarrass people or violate their privacy. That worked out well. Other bystanders and I stood side-by-side, looking at the same activities. I quickly discovered that the most visually compelling scenes were of hands: old, middle-aged, and young hands, often close together or touching. I was most impressed by the transmission of manual skills from old to young. Fathers, grandfathers, and other men held the smallest mallet (kine) with small children as they pounded rice together. At tables outdoors grandmothers and mothers guided girls’ hands as they formed the sticky clumps of rice into bite-size pieces of the same size and shape. In the kitchen grandmothers and mothers guided young girls as they prepared and served topping (kinoko) and green tea. In many cases such practice was followed by children doing it themselves. That’s how people keep their traditions alive, and it’s a great way to support young parents who want to raise their children in a healthy and supportive community.

Rice Harvest in September

This is a rice combine harvester in Ritto City, Shiga Prefecture, Japan, on September 5, 2013. Mikamiyama (Mount Mikami) is in the background. It had been raining heavily the previous day, and we can see fallen rice plants lying in an adjacent field. Fortunately, other fields seem to be okay.

Rice combines reap and thresh the rice. Larger ones such as this can store several hundred kilograms on board. Periodically the rice is transferred to a truck.

Technical notes

This video is a quick “minute movie” with no additional audio. Video was captured with a hand-held Olympus OM-D E-M5 camera and the 12-50mm kit lens that came with the camera. As always, I used manual exposure (f20 at 1/60 sec.). Usually I shoot with manual focus, but this time I tried continuous auto-focus with tracking. It did not work well. Several times the tracking bracket moved around, apparently looking for a subject. I was surprised that the camera did not track the harvester well at all. Next time I’ll go back to manual focus.

Post-processing was done on my old MacBook. I trimmed the clips with QuickTime. I had to trim a lot. I’d shot the video from a sidewalk near a noisy road, and several large trucks passed as I was shooting. Also, auto-focus on the camera created some blurred segments that I removed. I edited with Final Cut Pro X. I simply dropped the clips in place, added an opening photo with fade in, a title, and my standard “shigarivers.com” clip at the end. The software helped with color balance and image stabilization to smooth out the camera shake. Audio was okay, so I didn’t change it.