Ike - a big lake was changed into paddy fields
Paddy field of Ike where there was a big lake till 1868. The mountain with a round summit is Omuro-yama.
Red rice grown by Inaba-san
At the end of the Edo Era (1603-1867) there were 16 villages in the area of present-day Ito city. They more or less continue as districts of Ito City. Today there are 15 districts and the reduction by one district is the result of the integration of two villages before the start of the municipality of Ito in 1889.
Ike is a latecomer in Ito. It first formed, together with other three villages, an independent municipality, Tajima, and Tajima joined Ito City together with Usami in 1965.
Ike is a small basin and isolated by Omuro-yama and other rises from the center of Ito. "Ike" means "lake" in Japanese language and in fact there used be a big lake where there are paddy fields today. The lake was ponded up by lava erupted from Omuro-yama some 5000 years ago. There is a trace of humans in Ike from the beginning of the first millennium. However, the first written document on Ike can only date back to 1594.
Ike was rich in rice production already in the feudal time. It had fertile land around the lake and continuously expanded paddy fields through reclamation. The biggest dream of villagers was to dry up the whole lake so as to create a large agricultural land. However, a tunnel must be dug to drain the lake water out of the basin and further down to the sea to realize the dream and the village lacked technology and funds for the purpose.
Only after the Meiji Restoration and the start of the Meiji government in 1868, Ike somehow managed to borrow money from the new government for the purpose of promoting economy. 63 families of the village vowed to pay back the money by each family making 100 hiro (about 15m) straw ropes every night.
- The borrowed money was 3,000 yen and the money thus saved through rope making was 140 yen per year. This shows us the determination of villagers to make a tunnel.
The tunnel was finished in 1869 and it was a triumph of all villagers. However, it was not the end of the difficulties. Because, the hand dug tunnel must be maintained carefully and from time to time thoroughly. Villagers frequently needed fundamental reconstruction of the facility.
The present tunnel for drainage.
Nevertheless, it was stopped up by a typhoon in 1958 and the Ike sank under water. Only after the completion of a new tunnel with modern technology, people came to be able to enjoy more or less a secure life.
Now, Ike is the biggest rice production district within Ito. From its rice tasteful sake "Ike" is produced. Unfortunately the volume of production is not big and the sake is available only at the beginning of a year.
Sake made from the rice in Ike
When I was strolling around the village, I found a special rice field where red and black rice were planted. Red rice used to be planted also in ancient Japan. But, it was abandoned because of bad taste. On the other hand black rice is essentially a foreign species. I guessed that an innovative farmer tries to grow them on a trial basis.
San-jinja is patron of the village. It was at latest built at the beginning of the Edo Era (early 17th century). San-jinja looks to be strongly supported by villagers, for it has many new buildings and facilities and when I was there many young people were enthusiastically preparing for the festival. Though a half of Ike is now occupied by country villas, another half retains a very provincial atmosphere and it offers good possibility for the people who like taking a walk in the peaceful provincial area.
Ike's paddy field seen from the village side. The highest mountain is Yahazu-yama.