Welcome to Scarecrow village

Welcome to Scarecrow village

She made her first scarecrow 13 years ago to frighten off birds pecking at seeds in her garden.

The life-sized straw doll resembled Ms Tsukimi Ayano's father, so she made more. And then she couldn't stop.

Today, the tiny village of Nagoro in southern Japan is teeming with her 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 Ms Ayano. "But there are 150 scarecrows."

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 greying community is a microcosm of Japan, whose population has been falling for a decade.

By 2060, it's expected to drop from 127 million to 87 million.

At 65, Ms Ayano is among the youngest residents of Nagoro. The village school was shut in 2012 after its two pupils graduated.

But the building is now occupied by her scarecrows: Students at their desks and in corridors, a teacher stands by the blackboard while a suit-wearing school principal looks on, Reuters reported.

Each of the 350 scarecrows crafted by Ms Ayano over the years was built on a wooden base, with newspaper and cloth fillings. They are often dressed in hand-me-downs, and the ones outdoors are lined with plastic to keep them dry.

Still, Ms Ayano has often had to replace scarecrows exposed to the open air. Sometimes, she makes new ones to order, usually in the likeness of young people who have left Nagoro or residents who have died.

Said Osamu Suzuki, 68: "They're created as requests for those who have lost their grandfather or grandmother. Something to bring back memories."

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

This article was first published on March 18, 2015.
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