3 things you do as a sugarcane-picking worker in Okinawa

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I went to Iriomote(location), one of the islands of Okinawa in Japan from Feb. to Mar. of 2018. I did sugarcane picking and earned money. I am going to show you 3 ways to pick sugar cane.

The head and the leaves of sugar cane do not contain sugar so much, so need to be removed. And you need to cut off sugar cane from their roots. There are some ways to achieve these 2 processes. The farmers choose the best way to save money and time.

Huge trucks carry sugar cane to a factory where it becomes brown sugar.

Picking up sugar cane collapsed by machine

This way is what you do most frequently.

  1. A machine called “barikan” cuts the roots of sugar cane and collapses it to the ground. This machine is owned by the island government. So, the farmers have to spend money. After they make a phone call, an operator comes with a machine.
  2. You remove leaves and then cut off the head of sugar cane by a unique sickle. This process is called “kasagi”.
  3. You drag sugar cane, make a pile, and tie it with a rope.
  4. The farmers pick up piles and place them together.
  5. At the end of every single day, a truck comes to pick up piles. It carries them to the factory.

Cutting sugar cane by an ax and picking it up

This is the cheapest way for the farmers but is the most physically demanding task. Sugar cane-cutting machines can’t access to edges of fields. Or, sometimes, sugar cane grows too much and it doesn’t stand vertically enough. So, you do this way there. Or, when the farmers have enough time, they do this to save money. They should pick all of the sugar cane before the factory gets closed in around Apr..

  1. “Kasagi” (shown above). Sugar cane is not collapsed yet so you need to make it bend down and do it.
  2. Cut off sugar cane from its root. This is really a physically challenging task. And, drag it to make a pile. A part of the shoot close to the root contains more sugar so you should cut as a lower part as possible.
  3. The farmers pick up piles and place them together.
  4. At the end of every single day, a truck comes to pick up piles. It carries them to the factory.

A harvester cuts and collects sugar cane

This is the easiest way. A machine operator does everything. The farmers need to spend a lot of money. So, usually, they don’t choose this way, if they have enough time.

A harvester cuts sugar cane from its root and loads itself with sugar cane. Then, it removes leaves and heads, breaks them into pieces, and scatters the pieces into the field. The harvester carries sugar cane to the factory.

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