Autumn is officially upon us. It’s the season of shorter days, brighter moons and bountiful harvests. Niigata prefecture, in Northern Japan, is known for its rice paddies and rice production. Around this time of year the rice harvest becomes a big deal, as well as the tons of rice straw, or wara, that is leftover. It can be plowed down as soil improver, fed to livestock, or even woven into decorative ornaments. But before any of that, for the past 10 years Uwasekigata Park has hosted a Wara Art Festival by teaming up with art students to create creatures, both large and small, from rice straw.


The theme for this year’s festival is “Echigo no Umi” (Sea of Echigo). Echigo was an old province in north-central Japan, on the shores of the Sea of Japan, that corresponds to current-day Niigata.

On display this year are a group of dolphins, an octopus and a crested ibis. While the latter is not technically a sea creature, the crested ibis, or toki in Japanese, is the symbol of Niigata and a bird that has a symbiotic relationship with the sea. Whether intentional or not, it also reminds us of Hayao Miyazaki’s latest film “The Boy and the Heron,” which was released this year.

A rice festival is planned for October 7th but the sculptures are on display through the end of October.

The Wara Art Festival all started in 2006 when the local district reached out to Musashino Art University to seek guidance on transforming their abundant amount of rice straw into art. And in 2008, the very first Wara Art Festival was held. Since then, every year the school sends art students up to Niigata to assist in creating sculptures made out of rice straw.

Wara Art Festival 2023

Dates: 8/27 – 10/31/2023
Location: Uwasekigata Park (map)
More information

below are original renderings made by the art students prior to creating the sculptures