In the midst of this summer's blazing heat, workers at an agricultural public corporation in Kyoto Prefecture had already begun preparations for the New Year that is still months away.
Bundles of straw are hung in greenhouses in Nantan, Kyoto Prefecture, creating a lush green curtain, to be dried for making "shimenawa," or sacred straw ropes, that decorate shrines and other facilities during the New Year.
Given the aging local population, it has become impossible for the residents to make shimenawa themselves, and more and more people have turned to the agricultural public corporation to have the ropes made.
The public corporation cultivates glutinous rice and makes use of the straw to make shimenawa. Due to the increase in demand, it expanded this year's production to 700 square meters from last year's 400 sq. meters.
In early August, the glutinous rice was harvested and the straw was tied into bundles of about 10 centimeters in diameter. The bundles were then hung in rows spanning a total area of about 120 sq. meters.
After drying the straw bundles for a while, they are moved to be kept in cool and dark storage to prevent the fresh green color from fading. The weaving begins around late November.
"This drying process to preserve the beautiful green color is very important," said Kimitoshi Inoue, who works at the public corporation. "We hope to be able to make impressive shimenawa this year as well."
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