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Driving through the valleys outside Hofu in Yamaguchi Prefecture, Yasha Yukawa scours the surrounding rice paddies for the raw material he covets. He is constantly on the lookout for rice straw, but only the farmers that harvest the traditional way preserve it.

“The people who live there harvest by hand,” he says, pointing toward a house with a paddy where last year’s stems are still poking out of the ground. “But they give their straw to the local Shinto shrine for making shimenawa, the rope enclosing the sacred space.”

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