In Niigata, Japan, artists create astounding creatures from rice straw, a byproduct of rice production. Called Wara Art, the sculptures are created in a collaboration between Niigata City residents and students from Musashino Art University. The Wara Art Festival is taking place right now through October 31 in the city's Uwasekigata Park. Images from prior years below. From the City of Niigata:
In winter in the past, when farmers were unable to do farm work when it snowed, they earned their living by processing and creating crafts from rice straw as a substitute for their principal occupation. However, due to lifestyle changes and the modernization of agriculture, this culture has gradually faded and there are now few people who possess those straw art processing techniques.
Toba-Ami, which is used for processing rice straw for use in Wara Art, is one of the traditional techniques being lost. Rice straw cannot be used to make art in its natural loose state. For this, Nishikan Ward farmers conduct weaving work in a sheet shape (Toba-Ami). There are very few people remaining who possess the Toba weaving technique, which was once used throughout Japan. It is precisely because Nishikan Ward is a rice-producing area that this precious technique lives on.
images: City of Niigata