The Niigata Wara Art Festival 2017

Check Out These Massive Straw Art Sculptures on Japan’s Honshu Island

Art students are giving leftover rice wara a second life

By Andrew Amelinckx, Modern Farmer
October 10, 2017

Japan’s fall rice harvest is finished, but the remnants continue to find new life as art in rural Japan, especially in Niigata Prefecture on the island of Honshu.

Since 2008, the Niigata Wara Art Festival has showcased massive sculptures made from rice straw created by art students from Tokyo’s Musashino Art University, in collaboration with local farmers and residents.

Wara, as rice straw is called in Japan, is what’s leftover after the rice grains have been threshed out (it’s similar to how wheat is produced). Wara is most often used for things like roofs, green manure, or livestock feed, though historically, it had a wide variety of everyday uses, including to make shoes, bags, even as a covering for the dead. In the hands of present-day art students, the wara has been sculpted into giant-sized gorillas, dinosaurs, super-cute kittens, and other fun figures. How? The rice straw is braided together into 20-inch sections that are then formed onto a wooden frame.

The Niigata Wara Art Festival takes place each year in late August and early September and the sculptures remain up until Oct. 31.