Every year, a coastal region of Japan shows that you can make more with straw than just haybales. The Wara Art Festival in Niigita prefecture features colossal sculptures that are made from leftover rice-straw, known as “wara.” While the festival took a hiatus in 2020 due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, it has returned in time for its 13th anniversary and features a whole new collection of handmade creatures at Uwasekigata Park. Among them are an eagle, bear, walrus, and squid, to name a few.
This popular event originated several years ago when the farmers of Nishikan Ward (formerly Iwamuro village) were seeking a way to dispose of unused straw from the rice harvest. It ultimately led to a partnership with Musashino Art University which still thrives today. Students from the school design each work of art, and the crafters in Nishikan Ward bring it to life using complex wooden structures and a multitude of straw.
This year's sculptures are on view at Uwasekigata Park until the end of October. You can also see the work from previous festivals in their online gallery.