Rice-planting session gets Zama residents' feet wet in local culture
Stars and Stripes June 10, 2003
TANA, Japan — Three grade-school girls stood side-by-side in a rice paddy’s chilly water Saturday, their toes wriggling in the muck.
“Eeeewww,” they shrieked. “It’s nasty!”
The girls — Karah Helm, Ander Airutz-Stierna and Marisol Elliott — were among a handful of Camp Zama community residents who spent Saturday morning helping a local sake brewery plant rice for “Terute Hime,” the rice wine considered Sagami City’s official wine.
Every year, explained Shuichiro Tadokoro, brewery officials invite base residents to the brewery to give them a taste of Japanese culture — and the wine.
Since 2000, he said, Americans have planted rice in the early summer, harvested it four to five months later and visited the brewery to see how it’s turned into wine. It’s become a popular trip for community members.
Lt. Col. John Irgens, the 10th Area Support Group staff judge advocate, is at Zama on temporary duty from Okinawa.
He found himself covered in mud Saturday because, as a Montana native, he knows how to “plant about everything but rice.”
“I wanted to see how they did it,” he said.