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Politics

Lawmakers band together to save Japan's rice terraces

Government wants to turn neglected fields into tourist hot spots

Rice terraces in Nagasaki Prefecture. The Japanese government wants to preserve these fields even as the farming population shrinks.

TOKYO -- Japanese lawmakers have united across party lines to protect the nation's rice terraces, many of which are falling into disrepair as the farming population ages.

More than 50,000 rice terraces existed across 20,000 communities in 2005, according to the Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries. But the shortage of rice farmers is worsening every year. A bill being drafted by ruling-party and opposition lawmakers would sound the alarm and lay the groundwork for revitalizing affected areas.

Terraced fields are not only suited for rice production, but can also help protect the environment. The government hopes that they can become tourist attractions as well with a little shot in the arm.

The plan is for Prime Minister Shinzo Abe to craft a basic strategy to be approved by the cabinet. The government will select certain terraces in each prefecture to assist via money and training, provided through a cross-agency effort including the farm ministry and the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Communications.

The legislation will likely remain in effect only until the end of March 2025. Lawmakers plan to submit it to the Diet in the current session.

Frameworks already exist that help preserve terraced fields and the communities around them. But none is geared specifically to them, and their use is not widespread. Lawmakers are expected to debate more efficient uses of these mechanisms as well.

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