Because of Otaki's elevation, the growing season for rice is quite short. As a result, I've heard, that rice grown here is not so delicious. However, I've received rice from people in the village before and found it to be quite tasty.
In the past rice was not heavily grown in Otaki. Millet, buckwheat, and other grains appear to have been more common. In Takigoshi, a hamlet located in the back of the Otaki valley, it is too cold for rice. At points in the past rice was purchased by residents who earned money hunting and selling skins--particularly bear.
Japan is talked about as a "rice culture", but this is not entirely true (particularly historically) in many upland villages, such as Otaki. Rather, the food economy in mountain villages was likely much more diverse: wild vegetables and game, mushrooms, river fish, grains, chestnuts, acorns, small birds, and, occasionally perhaps, rice.
Anyway, no matter its wider context, I love the season of rice harvesting. The drying stalks are a beautiful sight. After the grains are dislodged, cleaned, and stored. The rice straw will be twisted to make ritual ropes that will hang in the entryways of homes and shrines in the new year season. Later, in the still whiteness of winter, this straw will be piled up, along with boughs of pine and bright red, round statues of Bodhidharma, and set ablaze to ensure health for the year.
Though I wouldn't call it a "rice culture", the lives of Otaki's residents are intimately bound with rice in a perennial dance that unfolds as a magnificent display upon the landscape.