Maruyama Senmaida Rice Terraces 丸山千枚田
The Maruyama Senmaida Rice Terraces in the mountains west of Kumano-shi (Kumano city) in Mie Prefecture are an historic, preserved agricultural area with 1,340 rice paddies of all shapes and sizes cut into the sides of the hills, making it one of the largest rice terraces in the country.
Senmaida Rice Terraces in Japan
There are several Senmaida rice terraces in Japan with other famous examples being Shiroyone Senmaida in Wajima on the Noto Peninsula in Ishikawa Prefecture, Kamogawa Oyama Senmaida in Kamogawa, Chiba Prefecture, Hamanoura Senmaida in Saga Prefecture which runs down to the sea and Kanzaiko Tanada in Kochi, Shikoku.
The walls of the terraces are constructed from stones and mud and the terraces are angled to catch as much of the sun as possible.
In the case of Maruyama Senmaida, the terraces rise 100m up the sides of the hills. Due to the elevation of the paddies, machinery is difficult to use and the work of planting and harvesting the rice must be painstakingly done by hand.
The Maruyama Senmaida are believed to date from the Edo Period but had fallen into disrepair by the 1950's with only around 500 rice fields still being worked. Grants and subsidies from the authorities to local farmers help to preserve the paddies today and also protect the environment from erosion.
Maruyama Senmaida Rice Festivals
The Maruyama Senmaida are beautiful in all seasons, whether covered in snow in winter, the water shimmering in the sunlight in early spring before planting and then the full, deep green of the rice in July and August.
A planting festival is organized in mid-May with participants dressed in traditional farming attire, performing dances to pray for a bumper crop. Similarly, in July a Mushi Okuri dance is held to drive away insects.
Maruyama Senmaida Rice Terraces
Kumano, Mie Prefecture
There are Mie Kotsu buses from the bus stop across the road from Kumano-shi Station to Senmaida / Toritoge-Iriguchi bus stop that terminate at Seiryu-so Onsen near the beautiful Kitayama River. From Senmaida / Toritoge-Iriguchi bus stop it is a 30 minute walk up hill to the rice terraces.
The bus journey takes about 50 minutes with the first daily bus at 11.25am. There are other buses at 1.50pm, 3.50pm (weekends and public holidays only), 4.34pm (Monday-Friday only), and 7.15pm.
Rental car from Kumano-shi would be a 30-40 minute drive.
The Maruyama Senmaida rice terraces are a 4-5km walk along quiet country roads to the Kiwa-cho Mine Museum. For here it is short walk to Little Britain, a memorial to British POW's who died working in the mines during World War II and then a short distance on to Seiryu-so Onsen.
Yunokuchi Onsen is a walk or short drive from the terminus of the bus at Seiryu-so Onsen. An old mining train (Toroko Densha) also connects Seiryu-so Onsen and Yunokuchi Onsen in 10 minutes through dark tunnels and pristine forests. It is also possible to ride a joined pair of "Rail Mountain Bikes" on the route in the times between the train departures.
The Tori-toge Pass is a 7.9km, two-hour, fairly easy hike to and from the Senmaida / Toritoge-Iriguchi bus stop. The Tori-toge Pass is not officially part of the UNESCO Sacred Sites and Pilgrimage Routes in the Kii Mountains, though it has been used by local people for centuries.
The trail goes over good stone paths for much of its course.