NEARLY two decades ago, village hall clerk Koichi Hanada received an unusual request from his superior: find a way to bring tourists to this small community in rural northern Japan that has rice paddies and apple orchards but not much else.
The conscientious Mr Hanada spent months racking his brain. Then one day he saw schoolchildren planting a rice paddy as a class project. They used two varieties of rice plants - one with purplish stalks and the other with green ones. Then it struck him: why not plant the coloured varieties in such a way to form words and pictures?