In July of 2005 I posted a picture of two Ukiyoe prints by 18th Century artists Sharaku and Utamaro, as reproduced in rice paddies using different colored varieties of the grain.
This is an annual project in Inakadate Village, in the prefecture of Aomori. Last year, they produced these images of two Japanese gods -
You can visit the town website to see previous rice art as well as a photo sequence of last year's rice art starting with the hand planting of the rice on May 28, and following the growth every few weeks to the end of September. As the site is in Japanese, I've linked that particular frame directly here: Inakadate Rice Art Growth. Not shown above is the writing - in rice - of the town name plus a slogan or theme used each year.
What's next? For 2007, they have chosen two famous woodblock prints by Ando Hiroshige (1797-1858) from his series "Thirty Six Views of Mt. Fuji".
One of the things that has always fascinated me about Japanese culture is the way that art is integrated into so many things and every aspect of life. This has been eroded somewhat by westernization which emphasizes the utilitarian aspects of things, but in typical Japanese fashion the artistic and the utilitarian are often blended into something new and unique. Rice paddy art may not be the most practical example, but it does represent the many ways that the Japanese have continued to embrace their own cultural heritage and use its art to enhance everyday life.