Incredible straw creatures invade Japanese city

Wara Art Festival
(Image credit: Wara Art Festival)

Giant creatures have invaded the city of Niigata in Japan. The stunning animals and mythical beings are all made using leftover straw from the rice harvest, and they really seem to come alive.

Wara, or rice straw, is what's left after grains have been threshed out during the rice harvest. It's traditionally used to make roofs, tools and zori sandals. The practice of working the material was in danger of being lost, but artists have found a way to revitalise the ancient craft, and create a major local attraction in the process. After a hiatus last year due to the global pandemic, the theme of this year's event is "lucky charms who give vitality to those who see them". As a result, it features several creatures from Japanese mythology.

The Wara Art Festival has taken place at Niigata's Uwasekigata Park since 2008 in a collaboration with Tokyo’s Musashino Art University. Students from the university brainstorm ideas for each year's sculptures and then work with local craftspeople and farmers to bring them alive through painstaking work.

Rice straw is thin and difficult to shape, but with a lot of patience it's woven into sheets in a technique called toba-ami, which used to be used throughout Japan, but is now largely kept alive in rice-producing Niigata. The sheets of straw are then cut and shaped over wooden frames to create impressive sculptures with a huge amount of personality. This year's exhibition runs until October 31.

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Joseph Foley

Joe is a regular freelance journalist and editor at Creative Bloq. He writes news and features, updates buying guides and keeps track of the best equipment for creatives, from monitors to accessories and office supplies. A writer and translator, he also works as a project manager at London and Buenos Aires-based design and branding agency Hermana Creatives, where he manages a team of designers, photographers and video editors who specialise in producing photography, video content, graphic design and collaterals for the hospitality sector. He enjoys photography, particularly nature photography, wellness and he dances Argentine tango.