Stunning crop art has sprung up across rice fields in Japan . But this is no alien creation – the designs have been cleverly planned and planted.
Farmers creating the huge displays use no ink or dye. Instead, different colours of rice plants have been precisely and strategically arranged and grown in the paddy fields.
As summer progresses and the plants shoot up, the detailed artwork begins to emerge.
The largest and finest work is grown in the Aomori village of Inakadate , 600 miles north of Toyko, where the tradition began in 1993. The village has now earned a reputation for its agricultural artistry and this year the enormous pictures of Napoleon and a Sengoku-period warrior, both on horseback, are visible in a pair of fields adjacent to the town hall. The Sengoku warrior on horseback has been created from hundreds of thousands of rice plants, the colours created by using different varieties.
More than 150,000 vistors come to Inakadate, where just 8,700 people live, every summer to see the extraordinary images.
Each year hundreds of volunteers and villagers plant four different varieties of rice in late May across huge swathes of paddy fields.
Napoleon on horseback can be seen from the skies, created by precision planting and months of planning among villagers and farmers in Inkadate.
And in recent years, other villages have joined in with the plant designs.
Another famous rice paddy art venue is near the town of Yonezawa in the Yamagata prefecture.
This year’s design shows the fictional 16th-century samurai warrior Naoe Kanetsugu and his wife, Osen, whose lives feature in the television series Tenchijin.
Various artworks have popped up in other rice-farming areas of Japan this year, including designs of deer dancers.
The farmers create the images by planting little purple and yellow-leafed kodaimai rice along with their local green-leafed tsugaru roman variety, to create the coloured patterns between planting and harvesting in September.
The figures in Inakadate cover 15,000 square metres of paddy fields. From ground level, the designs are invisible, and viewers have to climb the mock castle tower of the village office to get a glimpse of the work.
Rice-paddy art began there in 1993 as a local revitalization project, an idea that grew out of meetings held by the village committee.
Closer to the image, the careful placing of thousands of rice plants can be seen in the paddy fields.
The different varieties of rice plants grow alongside one another to create the masterpieces.
In the first nine years, the village office workers and local farmers grew a simple design of Mount Iwaki every year.
But their ideas grew more complicated and attracted greater attention. In 2005 agreements between landowners allowed the creation of enormous works of rice paddy art.
A year later, organisers used computers to plot the precise planting of the four differently coloured rice varieties that bring the images to life.