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Japan: Rice in Japanese Folk Culture

If we wish to see in the world something more than our own image, to learn from the lifeways of others, to be stimulated by another's aesthetic thought, Secretary Robert McC. Adams reflected in the 1986 Festival Program Book, then we need to find ways of understanding what it means to turn a pot or sing a song in another's culture. Of course, if the living people are present, as they are at the Festival, visitors can ask them. Another way is to sense the resonances among several elements of a single culture presented. In the area of the Festival devoted to Japan, for example, the 13- foot straw samurai figure, in isolation, might have conjured ferocious thoughts of others' values. But visitors could also notice the rice paddy that the figure adorned and the festive planting ceremony enacted in the field and the rice straw hanging up to dry, the very material from which the figure was constructed. What emerged then was a complex and beautiful resonance among these cultural practices, deepening visitors' appreciation of each and opening the possibility to begin to understand the many ways that Japanese folk culture speaks and sings about that most important commodity, rice.

More than 50 Japanese and Japanese Americans demonstrated the cultivation and myriad uses of rice found in the traditional folk culture in Japan, and how many of them have been retained in the U.S. In addition to the craft presentations focused on crafts related to rice cultivation, performing groups presented several local folk music traditions, masked dance-drama, and the ritual of hand- transplanting rice (demonstrated in a flooded rice paddy constructed on the Festival site). Japanese Americans brought additional craft demonstrations, children's activities, and foodways to the Festival.

Alicia María González served as Japan Program Curator, and Susan Asai as Program Coordinator; the Coordinator in Japan was Kozo Yamaji, and Karen Brown and Todd DeGarmo were Assistant Program Coordinators.

Japan: Rice in Japanese Folk Culture was made possible by the Japan Foundation, the Asian Cultural Council and the following corporations: Epson Corp., Hitachi, Ltd., Kibun Co., Ltd., Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd., Toshiba Corp., Toyota Motor Corp., and United Airlines.

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