Niigata isn’t a typical travel destination, but it does draw people in for a unique festival held each year between August and October.
The Wara Art Festival is held in Uwasekigata Park and shows off amazing sculptures made of rice straw left over after the annual rice harvest.
People weren’t quite sure what to do with all the straw, but now tons of it is donated to art students at Musashino Art University in Tokyo as well as local volunteers who are tasked with making giant animal sculptures with it. Some of them are up to 16 feet tall!
The sculptures include gorillas, dinosaurs, bears, rhinos, and more. Underneath is a wood frame skeleton to ensure the sculptures stay up throughout the festival, but over two weeks, more and more layers of wara are added. Some are braided, others thatched – in fact, there are many techniques the artists use to build their sculptures.
If you do go to Niigata for the festival, be sure to try the rice, which is considered to be the best in all of Japan. And according to Japan’s tourism association, the town is also known for its sake as well “thanks to the high snowfall in the prefecture which creates pristine conditions for rice growing. Centuries-old sake making traditions are kept alive by the toji, or Sake Masters, of Niigata. Local sake from breweries in Niigata are revered nationwide for their dry, sharp finish and refreshingly crisp flavour.”
If you visit the park, there are sake breweries within walking distance as well as beer breweries to visit. — WTF fun facts