The small town of Arao in the northwestern part of Kumamoto prefecture welcomes the rice planting season with a small festival celebrating this staple food in the Japanese diet. It's known as the Arao Rice Planting Festival, or Nobara Hachimangu Otaue-sai.
Arao’s agriculture heritage allegedly stretched back over a millennium. This history is celebrated in an hour-long festival at the rice paddies adjacent to the town’s Hachiman Shrine. Masked dancers kick off the event before local women in traditional dress move to the paddies for the planting. They’re often joined by local school children and Kumamon, the popular mascot of Kumamoto.
Public transportation is very limited; for drivers, there is free parking in and around the shrine.