Japan is known globally for its exceptional education system, and it’s impressive how they even repurpose discarded straws into unique visual aids for children. In the Northern part of Japan, Niigata Prefecture hosts an art festival that attracts thousands of visitors due to the material used to make giant animals. The leftover straw from harvests, usually utilized for roofing, fertilizer or animal feed, has been creatively transformed into awe-inspiring sculptures. The Wara Art Festival, held annually during the rice harvest season, features towering sculptures of gaurs, eagles, and dinosaur-like creatures. These larger-than-life sculptures are sure to captivate your imagination and showcase Japan’s artistic prowess.
The use of straw as a traditional resource in Nishikan has given birth to a popular event that has been running for a few years now. The farmers of the area, then known as Iwamuro Village, were faced with the challenge of what to do with the unused straw from the rice harvest. This challenge eventually led to a partnership with Musashino University of the Arts, which has continued to flourish till date.
Musashino University of the Arts students are responsible for designing each piece of art to be created. Local craftsmen from the Nishikan ward utilize elaborate wooden structures and ample amounts of straw to bring these designs to life. The end result is a beautiful display of artistic ingenuity that celebrates the traditional resources of the region.
Artisans use wooden frames to stabilize straw and make it possible to create bigger products.
Shingo Miyajima, a former professor at Musabi, came up with the idea of rejuvenating the region through art pieces made out of straw. This material has been utilized for various purposes such as animal feed, home crafts, and fertilizers since ancient times. With the evolution of agriculture and changing lifestyles, this traditional practice has now been given a modern twist.
The art of Wara involves using rice straw, which is produced through the use of Toba-ami. However, this traditional technique is gradually fading away with time.
The method used for creating these pieces is both intricate and gentle. Despite the slender and awkward nature of each individual straw, the students at Musabi have managed to craft them into living masterpieces through their diligent weaving process and imaginative designs. The resulting artwork exudes a lifelike quality that is truly captivating.
Moreover, the event celebrating the use of straw also features a plethora of captivating undertakings, including fun games, traditional musical shows, and booths showcasing artisan-made products.
The Wara festival is a remarkable celebration that ingeniously utilizes the by-products of the wet rice industry while promoting environmental conservation. This festival has become a magnet for both local and international tourists, bringing liveliness to Niigata City’s countryside.
Enormous straw-made creatures such as lions, eagles, crabs, spiders, and legendary beings like Amabie are a common sight after the harvest season.
The festival has been a popular tourist destination, drawing in visitors from different countries, owing to the picturesque installation and decorative artwork inspired by the surrounding wildlife, both real and mythical. Visitors can appreciate the beauty of the festival, have fun and capture memorable moments through photography.
Apart from the colossal creatures, the bugs linked with the harvest were also replicated.
Japan is known for its highly efficient and intelligent education system. It’s fascinating to see how even scraps of straw can be transformed into creative visual aids for children. These unique tours allow Japanese children to tap into their imagination and develop a range of skills from a young age.