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71205-0009 - Japanese farmers clearing rice, 1890s

Threshing Rice

Artist Kozaburo Tamamura
Publisher Kozaburo Tamamura
Medium Albumen Print
Period Meiji
Location Outside
Image No. 71205-0009
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A woman is threshing (脱穀) rice stalks with a Senbakoki (千歯扱き, threshing machine), while a man is carrying straw bags balanced on a pole.

In the back drying rice plants can be seen, it was customary to dry freshly cut rice plants before threshing started.

The Senbakoki (or Senba) is unique to Japan and was developed during the Genroku Period (1688-1704) in Daikumura (大工村, currently part of Takaishi City in Osaka Prefecture).

It consisted of a waist-high wooden frame from which teeth protruded. These teeth were made of iron or bamboo and made this agrarian tool look like a giant comb.

Rice stalks were pulled through this comb to separate the grains from the stems. In case of wheat, barley and oats, the Senbakoki was used to separate the ears, after which the threshing was accomplished by striking them with flails.

Until the introduction of the Senbakoki, a primitive implement called Kokibashi (扱箸) was used to thresh rice. This was basically a split piece of bamboo, often compared to giant chopsticks, through which the stalks were pulled to remove the grains. It was slow and hard work.

The Senbakoki therefore greatly improved the efficiency of threshing, but it also put many widows out of work who had made a living by threshing rice with the Kokibashi.

The Senbakoki faded away after the introduction of western farming technologies during the 20th century.

Farmer’s Calendar in Early Meiji

March–April Sowing rice on a small sub-field, ploughing fields with ox, fertilizing fields.
May–June Transplantation of rice to larger fields, weeding fields, harvesting wheat.
July–September Weeding fields, irrigating fields by taking water from streams.
October–November Harvesting and threshing rice, sowing wheat.
December–February Making goods from left-over stalks (straw slippers, etc.), maintaining wheat.


1 Wikipedia has an excellent article about Agriculture in the Empire of Japan.


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Reference for Citations

Duits, Kjeld (). 1890s: Threshing Rice, OLD PHOTOS of JAPAN. Retrieved on October 1, 2022 (GMT) from

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Great suggestion, Luigi. Thanks. Incidentally, Luigi is the nickname that my friends gave me when I lived in Italy!