National Geographic : 1978 Jul
Rice cultivation probably first appeared in Japan's narrow valleys and seaside alluvial plains in the second or third century B.C. Intensive labor was rewarded with high yields, a necessity on rugged islands where even today only 15 percent of the land is farmed. As villages developed, communal labor on days of greatest need became widespread. In a 19th-century print from northern Japan (upper left) men prepare a field for planting and women work in a straw-hatted line while the rice god hovers beneficently overhead. Land reform around 1900 abolished the feudal system that created the Ohana-taue, but Chiyoda's residents revived the celebration in 1930.