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Time stands still in Japan’s scarecrow village

Tsukimi Ayano made her first scarecrow 13 years ago to frighten off birds pecking at seeds in her garden. The life-size straw doll resembled her father, so she made more. Then she couldn’t stop.

Today, the tiny village of Nagoro in southern Japan is teeming with Ayano’s hand-sewn creations, frozen in time for a tableau that captures the motions of everyday life.

Scarecrows pose in houses, fields, trees, streets and at a crowded bus stop — where they wait for a bus that never comes. “In this village, there are only 35 people,” said Ayano. “But there are 150 scarecrows, so it’s multiple times more.”

Nagoro, like many villages in Japan’s countryside, has been hit hard by inhabitants flocking to cities for work and leaving mostly pensioners behind. Its graying community is a microcosm of Japan, whose population has been falling for a decade and is projected to drop from 127 million to 87 million by 2060.

Each of the 350 scarecrows crafted by Ayano over the years was built on a wooden base, with newspapers and cloth used to fill them out. They are often dressed in hand-me-downs, and the ones propped up outdoors are lined with plastic to keep them dry. Still, the weather plays spoilsport, and Ayano has often had to replace scarecrows exposed to the open air.

Sometimes, new ones are made to order, usually in the likeness of young people who have left Nagoro or residents who have died. “They’re created as requests for those who’ve lost their grandfather or grandmother,” said Osamu Suzuki, a 68-year-old resident. “So it’s indeed something to bring back memories.”

Tourists have started to come, too, drawn by the two lifeless delegates guarding the road leading to the village, next to a board identifying Nagoro as “Scarecrow Village.”  Reuters

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