Volunteers constructed colossal sculptures of animals using rice straw.
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Wara Art/Cover Images/Newscom
The Japanese recycle wara and use it to craft household decorations, to feed livestock, and to weave sculptures for the Wara Art Festival.
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Wara Art Festival
Students build a wood-and-wire frame in the shape of a giant gorilla.
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Wara Art Festival
Wild Rice Sculptures
Art students build animal sculptures to celebrate autumn and a special anniversary

Alexandra Franklin | for Scholastic Art

Autumn is harvest season around the world, and every culture has its own way of celebrating this hearty time of year. In northern Japan, participants in the Wara Art Festival usher in the rice harvest by sculpting tons of leftover rice straw into animals both large and small. This year, to mark the festival’s 10th year, the sculptures are bigger than ever.

Creative Recycling

Rice straw, also known as wara, is a by-product of the rice harvest. Traditionally, the Japanese recycle wara for many things, including floor mats, ornaments, and feed for livestock. But art students at Niigata City’s Musashino University use wara in a more unusual way: to weave magnificent sculptures of bears, gorillas, lions, bulls, and even dinosaurs entirely out of straw for the Wara Art Festival.

To make one of the massive sculptures, the artists first build a giant wooden frame in the shape of the creature they’re creating. This provides a stable foundation so that visitors will be able to safely interact with and even climb onto the sculpture. Then they weave wara around the frame, in a process similar to building a thatched cottage.

Monumental Celebration

This autumn, to commemorate the art festival’s 10-year anniversary, the artists created sculptures that are twice as large as the works from previous years. The wara animals loom over the landscape, providing a jaw-dropping background for the festival’s singing, dancing, and other live performances. This year’s animal depictions include a gigantic gorilla and a realistic rhinoceros, complete with hooves and horns!