I've seen a lot of "Rice Paddies" shots of old Japan, but have always liked this ca.1886-7 image from the Yokohama studio of Italian photographer ADOLFO FARSARI.
The great Rice Paddies of CHINA, JAPAN, and the PHILIPPINES have always impressed me with their age old artistic patterns born from working the land for centuries --- some even as old as 1000s of years. There are many beautiful rice paddy images on flickr.
According to the narrative found in Terry Bennett's PHOTOGRAPHY IN JAPAN 1853-1912, Farsari was a talented photographer, colorful person, and an "interesting" business man. However, he grew homesick for Italy, and returned there in 1890. He left Japan with his young daughter KIKU who was born in 1885, the "result of a liaison with a Japanese woman, Nagashima Hona.".
Farsari never returned to Japan. His days of traveling there with a camera provided him with his own memories of the country until he died in Italy in 1898. The photographic studio he started in Yokohama would continue under his name (but managed by others) until it faded from view ca.1929.
I do not know what happened to little Kiku. She must have been a real beauty.
Lake Suwa and vicinity supposedly looked like this until the 1960s, when industrial development moved into the valley. Here's another modern day pic of the area, and more on the lake itself :
For those interested in a Gallery of over 400 great old Japanese photographs (including over 50 from Okinawa_Soba) --- and probably the best read you will ever get on Photography and Photographers of old Japan --- try to obtain a copy of Bennett's book mentioned above (at amazon.com?). This is not a sales pitch, as I get no kick-backs for mentioning it.
The detailed story and images surrounding ADOLFO FARSARI take up a full five pages of the book.
If you do get a copy, you will find it hard to put down.