surprised youth

Mammoth Straw Creatures Populate Farmland in the Annual Art Festival

If you go to the Japanese town of Nishikan during the annual rice harvest, you’ll see a lot more than just farmers harvesting rice. On display until the end of October, you will see enormous animals, insects, and mythical creatures made of rice straw. These are part of the region’s annual summer Wara Art Festival. (1)

Advertisement

The Amazing Creatures of Japan’s Wara Art Festival

Japan’s Niigata Prefecture is one of the country’s largest producers of rice. Rice straw is a leftover product of the annual summer rice harvest. Starting in 2008, every summer the region has put on an art festival featuring gigantic creatures made from the leftover rice straw.

Advertisement
people of Niigata working in a rice field
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

In the past, the leftover straw was used for tools, to make sandals, as livestock feed, and natural compost to fertilize the soil. With today’s modern technology and more advanced farming tools and methods, however, the straw is no longer needed for many of these reasons. The farmers were finding themselves with a lot leftover after each harvest. In 2006, the people of Nishikan Ward and Tokyo’s Musashino Art University formed a partnership with the idea of turning this rice straw into something for the people.

Advertisement

Department of Science of Design professor Shingo Miyajima had the idea that the art students and local farmers could collaborate to create some sort of art project between the two groups. From this idea, the Wara Art Festival was born. Now it is an annual event.

Advertisement

How It All Works

They decided that the leftover rice straw would be used to create gigantic creatures of all kinds. Some of them are real animals and insects that exist on our planet. Some are ancient creatures that have long been extinct. Others are mythical creatures either from folklore or from the students’ own imaginations.

Advertisement

Artisans from Nishikan construct the students’ designs from the rice straw given to them by the local farmers. They are made of wooden beams to provide the structure and then thatched straw to bring them to life. The structures are up to 30 feet tall and are absolutely a sight to be seen.

Advertisement

A True Collaboration

Especially in the early years, the local artisans have been an indispensable resource for the student artists. This is because the students are not accustomed to working with the straw, so the artisans are vital in helping the students bring their visions to fruition. While the students are working on the project, they actually go and live in Nishikan and work in person with the locals.

Advertisement
people of Niigata preparing for art festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

While living there, the students eat local cuisine prepared by the farmers and their families. They learn about the local culture and tradition, which is so different from their very urban Tokyo lives. True friendships are born from this project, with many of the students continuing to send postcards and letters to their farmer and artisan hosts for years after. The diversity of age, lifestyle, and origins of the people who work on the Wara Art Festival are what make this event truly amazing.

Advertisement

Read: Woman Shares Photos of an Amazing Flower-Like Bug That Looks like A Work of Art

Advertisement

The Creatures

The creatures are a sight to behold! Check out some of the photos of these incredible pieces of art.

Advertisement

The Bear: This is one angry-looking animal! Good thing it is just made of straw.

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

The Dragon: Alongside real creatures are plenty of beautiful, wonderful, and sometimes weird mythical ones.

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

The Monkey: People love posing with the various creations. Especially the cute ones!

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

Interactive art: These aren’t just art pieces. They are very solid structures! Strong enough so that visitors can actually sit on them for photos.

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

The Chamelion: In front of each one is a sign saying what it is and who designed and worked on it.

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

The Eagle: As you can see, the structures are quite large!

Straw Creatures from Wara Art Festival
Image Credit: Wara Art Festival

If you’re planning a trip to Japan next summer, make sure you put the Wara Art Festival on your list of must-see attractions.

Keep Reading: Giant ‘Serpent’ Emerges From the Sea Off the Coast of France

Source:

  1. “About Nishikan Ward and Wara Art” Wara Art Niigata City
Julie Hambleton
Freelance Writer
Julie Hambleton has a BSc in Food and Nutrition from the Western University, Canada, is a former certified personal trainer and a competitive runner. Julie loves food, culture, and health, and enjoys sharing her knowledge to help others make positive changes and live healthier lives.
Advertisement