Tanbo art is a Japanese creation in which people plant various types and colors of rice and ‘grow’ a giant picture in rice paddy fields.
It all started back in 1993 when the village of Inakadate, about 600 miles north of Tokyo, was looking to create a project that would ‘revitalize’ the local economy. They needed a way to attract tourists and Japanese rice field art was born.
Every April, the villagers meet and decide what to plant for the year. Prior to planting, farmers sketch out the designs on computers to figure out where and how to plant the rice. In 2007, over 700 people helped to plant the design. In Inakadate, the fields used are approximately 15,000 square meters (3.7 acres). The best time to view the rice field artworks is in September. [Source]
Four different types of heirloom and modern strains of rice are planted and cultivated to create the paddy art. For example, purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice is used along with local green-leafed tsugaru roman varieties. [Source]
Following Inakadate’s example, other villages such as Yonezawa in Yamagata prefecture, have started to create their own tanbo art. The growing attention and competition has made competing villages go bigger each year, also incorporating more contemporary figures in Japanese culture like Naruto and Mazinger Z. [Source]
With artworks ballooning to over 15,000 square meters (3.7 acres), viewing towers have been erected in participating villages to allow tourists to actually see and appreciate the gigantic forms of land art.