Amazing Living Art: 18 Giant Rice Murals [PICS]

Imagine having a gigantic canvas the size of 15,000 square meters and your mural design will be living art. In Japan, rice field art is intricate, beautiful and bizarre.  Cooler than crop circles, rice paddy art is becoming a big business that attracts crowds. The agricultural artistry is incredibly inventive which gives rise to marketing creativity. Here are 18 amazing and artistic rice murals.

Rice Field Art Rumored As A Hoax

(image credits: hemmy)

Crop circles are argued to be produced by aliens or drunken pranksters, but folks shouted, “Hoax!” and “Shopped!” when this picture of Mona Lisa circulated on the interwebs. Stunning and intricate rice field art is real. When a paddy is used as a canvas to create giant pictures in the rice fields, it is called Tanbo art. It was the Japanese who grew Mona Lisa grew in 2003. This was the first extremely intricate motif.

Canvas Size = 15,000 sq Meters of Land

(image credits: weirdasianews)

Even if a person is blessed enough to be born with artistic ability, most artists do not start with a canvas that is 15,000 square meters. The patterns are decided upon in April. The fields are planted in May and the bizarre agricultural murals are at full splendor in September. It’s not photoshopped, but computers do play a part in developing the designs. Farmers first sketch out their patterns, since each of the four different colored rice varieties have to be planted with precision.

Visualize the Patience, the Process

(image credits: hemmy)

The tradition of artistic rice fields was started in 1993 in Japan. The above field is located in the village of Inakadate, located 600 miles north of Toyko. For the first nine years, a simple mountain pattern was grown. The rice paddy mural motif for 2007 was Hokusai – from Thirty-six Views of Mount Fuji, “The Great Wave off Kanagawa” and “South Wind, Clear Sky.”

Artistic Rice Fields

Century-old farming tradition met creative artistry out of a desire for Inakadate to revitalize their village. By 2005, the rice field art was so popular that the artwork designs took on much more intricate patterns. By 2006, over 200,000 people traveled to Inakadate to see the living rice mural. In order to see the entire field, a 22 meter mock castle was constructed for appreciative and awed viewers.

(image credits: amazingphotos4all,tywkiwdbi,damncoolpics)

These giant living works of Japanese art are relatively new, but rice has been grown in most of these same areas for over 2,000 years.


Although the fields now appear painted, local green-leafed tsugaru roman variety rice is planted along with purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice.

Giant to Smaller Crop Murals

Yonezawa, Japan, followed suit and designed a field with fictional warrior Naoe Kanetsugu and his wife Osen. From village to village, different patterns are grown. Some include the genre ukiyo-e like the Japanese woodblock prints or paintings which were produced between the 17th and the 20th centuries. Common ukiyo-e motifs are historic tales, landscapes, theater, and “pleasure quarters.” On the bottom is the 2005 agricultural artistry featuring Sharaku – “Otani Oniji” and Utamaro – “Anthology of Poems: The Love Section.”

This agricultural artistry of Ebisu and Daikoku was used in 2008. This is Ebisu, god of fishers and merchants. He is one of the Seven Gods of Fortune.

Smaller works of crop art sprung up in other rice-farming areas of Japan like these murals of Doraemon and deer dancers.

(image credits: weirdasianews,askanet,Japan Times)

In 2006, Inakadate fields featured Fujin and Raijin. Fujin is the god of the wind and located on the right side of the field.  Raijin is the god of thunder and lightning.

Inakadate Rice Murals

Naoe Kanetsugu, a commander from the Sengoku period, in on the left side of the rice mural. Napoleon is on the right side of the 2009 Inakadate field.

Upon closer inspection, the rows and thousands of rice plants become visible. It’s somewhat mind-boggling to imagine hand-planting each of the plants in the precise spots to create rice paddy art.

Closer still, it is easier to see the mingling of the different rice varieties. Planting the “Paddy Art” takes hundreds of villagers and volunteers. The village population is only about 8,700.

(image credits: kellyvbrown,hoax-slayer)


Inakadate is the undisputed leader in cultivating intricate and fantastic living works of art. The 2009 theme was Warlords and Napoleon.

Rice Murals – Paddy Art & Drama

Rice field art is incredibly inventive, but marketing the living mural is even more creative. The 2008 rice mural caused drama since an ad was carefully placed to grow within it. This 3.7-acre rice mural in Inakadate features Daikoku, the god of wealth. Daikoku is holding the “magic money mallet.” Japan Airlines has a crop-based advertisement under Daikoku. The incorporated advertising met with disapproval from the former mayor, Ryuji Sato. He also happens to own the field. After a week of heated debates, town hall employees were dispatched to uproot the rice plants that formed the JAL logo.

(image credits: telegraph)

The above animal and historic scenes were drama and ad free.


In this stop-motion video of the 2008 Inakadate rice crop art, daily images from June 1 to July 8 were captured from a roof webcam.  On July 4, the webcam was shutdown when workers were sent to remove the cultivated JAL ad from the crop. We can’t wait to see what new yet spectacular giant crop murals will cover the rice fields in Japan . . . . also if ads designs will be growing in the rice paddy art venues.