Rice Field Art and Your Portfolio

Since 1993, rural farmers in the north of Japan have been using 4 different kinds of rice to make beautiful images that grow in their fields over the summer.

What started out as simple images made by a small group of crafty farmers has grown into a yearly event where thousands of local and far away volunteers come to help plant the rice in spring, and watch it grow into something spectacular by late summer.

Designs range from historical people (such as Napoleon or the picture seen above, which is a period piece warrior) to comic book characters to mythical gods.

I’ve known about these fields for a few years, and often thought them to be an amazing testament to art and effort, but they never rang as loudly as recently, when I was merely staring at one and it came to me: these fields are the artistic and edible epitome of what one’s  portfolio should seek to achieve:

1. Diversity – If all the plants were the same variety of rice, it would merely be a palate of solid colour. Place the right variety of rice in the correct place, and you have strategically created a masterpiece.

Quite often, it is the asset mix of a portfolio (over the individual securities) that produce the majority of its long-term sustainable gains.

I think we have all heard the idiom “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket.” Putting everything into one stock, fund, bond, or term deposit may bring you a short-term benefit, but in the long-run, it is probably best to determine an asset mix that you are comfortable with, but still allows for some global, security, or industry diversification.  I accept the “put all your eggs in one basket… and then WATCH THAT BASKET!!” approach, but I think it works best for savvy business owners.

2. Growth – Rice field art is a slow process and there are thousands of people who put in a lot of effort. In the winter they come up with an idea and draw the plan. In the spring they scale the design and plant the rice. In the summer they water, fertilize and watch their growth. And in the autumn they reap what they sowed.

I like the statement “Get rich slowly,” as it seems more organic, and definitely less risky than phrases like “getting in on the ground floor.”

Yes, there are those lucky ones that strike Microsoft gold, but the majority of us should concentrate on developing our plan, following it through, and harvesting the rewards in the future.

You are not going to get rich by investing $500 this month. But if you do that for the next 350 months while increasing your investments at or above inflation, plus re-investing dividends, interest, and allowing for appreciation, you stand to have a very nice portfolio when you want to retire to the location of your choice.

Any one of us can be a money farmer by designing our plan, planting our seeds, watering our plants, and reaping our rewards. You just need to remember that it takes a little effort, and a lot of time.

For anyone interested in seeing more of these rice field canvases, you can see a Google image search here, or site search here.

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3 responses to “Rice Field Art and Your Portfolio

  1. Pingback: » Weekly blog roundup Canadian Business Blogs | Advice on Investment in Canada, Stock Market, Small Businesses Opportunities

  2. I found this from Larry MacDonald’s roundup. Nice photo, and nice philosophy, too. I also agree with the get rich slowly meme, with the occasional shot with a small portion of one’s bankroll being acceptable every now and then (i.e. the guy who maintains a mainly indexed portfolio, but plays around in a few select stocks with a small portion).

  3. Hi Kevin.
    These fields are simply amazing. I’ve never seen them in person, but they are always in the National papers when they are at full growth.

    Agreed that if you have the means to do so there is nothing wrong with making some side bets. Also, sometimes putting a little bit to work elsewhere is enough to keep us on track with the bulk of the portfolio (whatever the particular strategy should be).

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