Recently, I was given a present from one of our students at Smith’s School of English Kyobashi(スミス英会話 京橋校). As you all know, giving a little present to each other now and then is quite common in Japan. Very often it’s a present from a holiday trip or a visit to some interesting place. Some presents are really nice and some are special in their own way.
The present I was given this time from our student was very simple one, but at the same time very special and personal. It was a bag of rice. He grows his rice on a rice terrace outside Osaka. It’s something he is very passionate about and proud of. So obviously, for couple of times, rice was a subject of our English Conversation lesson. Through our conversations I found out that growing rice for him personally is not just a hobby or a way to produce his own food. He is taking part in preservation of terraced rice fields in Japan and it’s also a way to connect with Japanese tradition again. Rediscovering own roots if you like.
I find it fascinating. Maybe, it’s because he can talk about this subject so passionately. He got me, a stranger from Europe, searching the internet, discovering facts about rice fields (tanbo,田んぼ) and terraces, rice cultivation and the whole process of finding its way to a supermarket shelf and consequently into my rice bowl. For example, did you know that rice begins as brown rice (genmai ,玄米) and is then polished by a machine (seimaiki ,精米機 )and later sold as a white rice (hakumai ,白米) as we know it. Don’t worry I won’t bore you with all the ‘rice facts’. If you really want to know more about rice, I would suggest visiting the websites of The Rice Association , Ricewisdom or the mighty Wikipedia.
In my view this student, an office worker, represents the part of Japanese population, which is trying to get in touch with traditional Japanese way of life in these hectic modern days. Sacrifice his free time and put a lot of labour into something so basic but also so fundamental. Learning ancient skills which are paradoxically getting lost in a world where we are surrounded by a sea of information. Learning about things we take for granted.
Japan is one of the top countries in car, electronic and entertainment industry with hi-tech gadgets, great video games, amazing anime and manga. I’m making sure that I fully enjoy all these great things this country can give me. But sometimes it’s interesting to step away from all this stuff for a minute, take a look at something really basic, like a portion of rice, and ask myself a couple of questions. How was this made, where did it came from and how did it end up in my hands? And sometimes it’s really nice to be able to give someone a small bag of rice and proudly say: ‘This is my rice, please enjoy’.
English Conversation Teacher at Smith’s School of English, Kyobashi (スミス英会話 京橋校).