Wara Art Festival held to pray for end to pandemic

Massive sculptures made of "wara" rice straw, now on display at the Wara Art Festival in Japan, were crafted as a wish to bring the coronavirus pandemic to an end.

The annual festival has been held in Niigata City's Nishikan rice-farming district since 2008, but it was canceled last year due to the pandemic.

This year, the event features three large creatures that are believed to bring good fortune.

The mermaid-like Amabie, thought to repel plagues, stands more than three meters high with cute round eyes.

Another sculpture is that of a Sankaku Daruma, a traditional doll in Niigata that is said to ward off illness and disaster.

A large Ho-oh phoenix is also on display, to wish that peace will be delivered by the legendary bird.

They were designed by students at Musashino Art University, which has collaborated with the festival since its inception.

A regular visitor said it's a pity there are fewer artworks than usual, but he expects the lively atmosphere to return next year, hopefully with the pandemic coming to an end.

The Wara Art Festival will continue until October 31 at Uwasekigata Park.