In Japan, autumn is one of the most beautiful seasons due to the breathtaking fall foliage. And each year during this season, the Wara Art Festival is held at Uwasekigata Park located in the region of Niigata Prefecture. Since 2008, students from Musashino Art University in Tokyo visit the area to create straw sculptures of gigantic animals.
The Niigata prefecture is known for the superior quality rice. This region also has the highest rice crop yield in all of Japan. Rice harvest typically happens at the start of fall season. After the harvest season, local farmers come up with several ways to recycle leftover rice straw. They use the rice straw, or ‘wara’ in Japanese to feed livestock, make fiberboard, for soil conditioning, making pulp for paper and more. Despite all these recycling methods, Niigata farmers are still left with so many straws. So, they decided to invite art students in Tokyo to create sculptures with the leftovers.
Students from Musashino Art University replied to the invitation back in 2008 and went to Niigata for the creative art exhibit. By braiding the straw over a wooden frame, they were able to create straw art in massive sizes. A giant snail, a pair of giant ducks, super-sized mushrooms, and different human figures, all made from straw. The first art exhibit became a massive success so the students vowed to return again next year. And that’s how it evolved into a yearly tradition.
Over the years that followed the annual Wara Art Festival has featured many powerful animals. Statues of a dragon, mammoth, whale, gorilla, crocodile, rhinosaurus, dinosaur, and more have been created. Locals and tourists alike flock to the Uwasekigata Park to see the magnificent sculptural pieces on display. Right after rice harvest season, which usually starts in late August, art students come up with impressive new sculptural designs to adorn the venue. Visitors can also take photos with the enormous sculptures until the end of October.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Wara Art Festival was canceled. So, we’re going to look back at some of the most incredible sculptures that have been made at the event in previous years. Hopefully, the pandemic will be over next year so everything will be back to routine. And we’ll be seeing more amazing animal sculptures at the 2022 Wara Art Festival.