by Kirsten Howard

Inakadate Village in Japan’s Aomori Prefecture has a very special tradition of planting rice paddies that might not look like much when you’re on the ground. However, viewed from above, they reveal something quite different: living pictures.

Usually the pictures will be classic Japanese paintings, but the team’s inspiration for one particular paddy came from a galaxy far, far away.    

A current crop of the village’s rice has produced a Star Wars-themed paddy, with C-3P0 and R2-D2 keeping company with new Force Awakens droid BB-8.

Akio Nakayama, who worked on the rice paddy project for 10 years, told the Japan Times in 2007 that people are often confused by the process of creating the living pictures.

“People who see this for the first time often ask me if we made this by painting colors on green rice plants,” he said.

In fact, the team behind the project begins each new design by using computer software to make very precise calculations. These help them decide how a field should be planted. Reed sticks are then dug into the ground so that the people tasked with planting the rice know the exact location of each plant. The final effect is achieved by sowing different types of rice that grow into plants with different colored leaves.

The original inspiration for the project was the village’s own ancient history of rice farming.

“I feel happy to see many people come to see our rice paddies because, here in Inakadate Village, rice and people’s lives are very closely connected,” Nakayama told Japan Times.

“In 1981, when we did construction work for a new road, we dug up some rice paddies that archaeologists dated as being about 2,000 years old. That impressed us local people a lot, because we realized how long people have been growing rice in this place."

“So then we thought that we had to do something involving rice to revitalise this area — and that was the origin of this project.”

You can take in a fantastic view of the paddy yourself thanks to YouTube user juzji, who uploaded a video from the observation deck.