Fall is here, which means that it’s time for the harvest and the annual fairs that celebrate it. In Japanese culture waste is often minimized, especially in food. Sometimes, during the annual rice harvest, the leftover rice straw is transformed into straw animals.
Each year in Northern Japan, the Wara Art Festival celebrates the September-October rice season. The farmers ensure the leftover rice-straw, known as “wara,” doesn’t go to waste by recycling it to feed livestock, improve soil, and in the coastal region of Niigata Prefecture, it’s used to make giant, straw animals. It’s a wildly inventive and fun way to repurpose rice straw left over from the harvest.
The annual Wara Art Festival, held at Uwasekigata Park, was created in 2008; it began as a creative collaboration between the city’s tourism division and the Musashino Art University. There have been a variety of creatures over the previous years, including dinosaurs. And since this is the festival’s tenth anniversary, the straw animals have doubled in size. Designs include fierce lions, gigantic gorillas, enormous crocodiles, and hefty rhinoceroses.
While the festival is over, you can still spot these rice straw sculptures at the park until the end of October. Check out more displays from the 2017 festival below, and put a trip to Japan on your fall to-do list for next year.
For more sculptures made out of interesting objects, take a look at these cardboard ones.
Daniel is an Art Director and Graphic Designer with over a decade of experience in advertising and marketing in the Greater Toronto Area.