September and October is rice harvest season here in Matsumoto! Catching glimpse of the farmers harvesting the rice can be quite interesting because much of the work is still done by hand, so keep your eye out as you travel around the area.
There are many, many rice paddies even just outside of the central part of the city. If you want to see the harvesting or fields in person, one easy way is to simply take a rental bicycle or take a bus out to the Satoyamabe/east areas or perhaps the bus or Kamikochi Line train out to the west area of town.
My favorite part is seeing the rice get bundled up and hung out long, wooden poles in the fields. This is done by hand, which must be very labor-intensive!
After the rice has been harvested, some farmers also make mini-hay bales with the leftover stalks. You might see these scattered about some of the paddies.
The buckwheat (another major crop in Nagano, used to make soba noodles) happens to bloom just as the rice is ready to harvest, so if you come during the right time, you can see fields of white buckwheat blossoms among the golden rice paddies—a very beautiful sight indeed!
Japanese people are especially excited about the harvest season because it means they can get their hands on some « shinmai » (new, freshly harvest rice) and « shin-soba » (new, freshly harvest buckwheat or the noodles made from this fresh buckwheat). The steamed rice and buckwheat noodles made from the freshly harvested grains are said to have the best flavor and more delightful aromas. Later on in the fall, the soba shops around Matsumoto will serve shin-soba noodles, so give them a try if you have the chance!