馬耕

In this article, I would like to write about the horse plowing that I observed and experienced last weekend, Saturday, November 6, 2021.

Mr. Goda and Mr. Odachi of Nippon Biodiesel Fuel (https://nbf-web.com/), which is engaged in the biodiesel business, mobile banking, and digital agriculture platform business in Mozambique, took us to Tsunan Town, Nakauonuma County, Niigata Prefecture to observe and experience horse plowing. Nippon Biodiesel Fuel, in cooperation with the Japan Horselogging Association, established "Sanbariki Co., Ltd." (Sanbariki means Three horse power) which is engaged in the business of training horses and people to pass on horse plowing techniques to the next generation, while cultivating rice fields using horse farming and producing and selling "Tajimba," a superb sake made from "Gohyakumangoku," rice which is grown without the use of agricultural chemicals.

What is horse plowing?

Horse plowing is, as the name suggests, plowing the fields with the power of a horse. Since the Meiji era (1868-1912), the rice harvest in Japan has increased due to improvements in horse plowing techniques and harrows. However, with the spread of cultivators and tractors, horse plowing rapidly disappeared.

Horses are said to be the gods of peasants, as not only do they plow the fields, but horse manure can also be used as fertilizer. In recent years, as the world has become more and more concerned with sustainable agriculture, the use of horses in orchards and wine vineyards in the United Kingdom, France, the United States, and other Western countries has been gaining attention.


Mr. Takashi Iwama, pack horse driver

Do you know what the Japanese word "Umakata" means? I had never heard the word before, but it means a person whose occupation is to transport goods and passengers by horse. The traditional technique of transporting lumber using horses is called "horsemanship," and has been used in the forestry industry since the ancient times. It is an environmentally friendly way of transporting lumber without destroying the mountains, as it can be used even on narrow mountain roads where large machines cannot enter.

Mr. Iwama, whom I met, is a pack horse driver. He is the representative director of the Association for the Promotion of Horse Carrying and the president of Sanbariki Co. Ltd. He is almost the same age as me and is working to pass on the skills and culture of horse transport and horse plowing. He also teaches horse plowing in Senegal, West Africa, and contributes to the international community by teaching animal power techniques. What struck me the most from a conversation we had as we sat around the hermitage and shared drinks was that horse communication is universal, and Mr. Iwama can talk and communicate with any horse. In fact, in 2011, Mr. Iwama used a local horse to win a horsemanship (*) competition in England!


Observation and experience of horse plowing

I was fortunate enough to have a very valuable opportunity to observe and experience the horse plowing of Mr. Iwama, who is "leading" the horse plowing industry in Japan. Mr. Iwama's horse plowing is very smooth and the horses work without stress. It was a perfect example of "Jinba Ittai" (man and horse as one).

Afterwards, I was given the opportunity to try my hand at it. When I attempted it I found it was really difficult. First of all, the horse would not move despite my calls to it. I to resort to asking Mr. Iwama to call out to the horse, and when the horse started to move it was difficult to control the angle of the harrow and I could barely keep up with the horse. As you can see in the photo below, (I am the one wearing a blue windbreaker), I was slumped over, and when I turned around after one row, I found my row was far from straight and had left a space from the row plowed by Mr. Iwama. It is said that "a horse is only as good as its rider" (because a horse will not listen to an untrained amateur who tries to handle it, but if you are an expert, you can move it as you wish). I understood this to mean "It is best to always consult an expert”.

My horse plowing did not go well, but I was able to experience the power of a horse (in this case "one horsepower"!). It was a very valuable lesson to feel firsthand the huge difference in power from that of a human. There are many mountainous areas in Japan and around the world where machines such as tractors cannot enter, and I felt that there are still many places where horse plowing can play an active role in terms of sustainable agriculture.

Mr. Iwama of Umakata and Mr. Goda and Mr. Odachi of Nippon Biodiesel Fuel organize events for children to experience horses and farming in Matsudai and Tsunan towns in Niigata Prefecture in an effort to keep alive the tradition of horse plowing. I am happy to hear that recently people from all parts of Japan want to learn about horse plowing and come here. I would like to support their activities in the future.

(From left, Mr. Fukushima (MOL), Oyama (author), Mr. Iwama)


<Reference>

 Japan Horse Logging https://japanhorselogging.org/ 
Tazinba

https://tazinba.jp/

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