23
Aug
16

scarecrow village

This past weekend I heard a radio report on the aging of the Japanese population, in which the elderly now account for a quarter of that nation’s population. Almost in passing, the commentator mentioned “Scarecrow Village,” a small place that has become a minor tourist site as it depopulates. I went searching on the internet, and found this article, which I thought you’d enjoy.

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Tsukimi Ayano arranges a scarecrow at a bus stop in the mountain village of Nagaro.

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Welcome to Scarecrow Village

In a tiny Japanese village, scarecrows outnumber the residents

by Sarah Eberspacher, The Week

To describe the village of Nagoro, Japan, as “tiny” would be an overstatement. The hamlet in the southern part of the country boasts only 35 aging villagers. But one resident has been steadily bolstering this fading population with a dedicated, if lethargic, group of bystanders.

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Tsukimi Ayano, the 65-year-old Wizard of Oz in this land of puppets, made her first scarecrow 13 years ago. It was an inspiration born of necessity—to ward off the birds that flocked to her garden. When she finished stitching together the garden’s new protector, Ayano realized she’d made a scarecrow with a striking resemblance to her father.

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ScarecrowFATHERTsukimi Ayano arranges a scarecrow meant to represent her father, near a tree.

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And so Ayano began to create the scarecrow versions of other villagers, family members, and friends, capturing their likenesses and placing the completed projects around Nagoro. To date, she’s crafted more than 350 straw dolls. Other villagers have gotten in on the game, too.

“(Now), they’re created as requests for those who’ve lost their grandfather or grandmother,” Osamu Suzuki, a Nagoro resident, told Reuters. “So it’s indeed something to bring back memories.”

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Like many of Japan’s small, rural communities, Nagoro is slowly losing its residents to cities, leaving behind only the retirees. In 2012, Nagoro’s only school shut down, after its two pupils graduated. The building is far from deserted, though; Ayano simply set up new pupils, on whom she checks when she makes her daily rounds through the village.

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The scarecrows are everywhere now: plowing an empty field; watching over the post office; even hopping on a bicycle near the outskirts of town. It can be a little unnerving, but Ayano’s rather macabre creations have given the town some much-needed attention. And the tourists that are beginning to travel to see the “Scarecrow Village” can count on a personal tour from Ayano — provided, she says, that they do not arrive when her television soap operas air.

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Sarah Eberspacher is an engagement editor in New York City with the Guardian US. Before her present job, she was an assistant photo editor, Saturday news editor, and associate editor for over two years at TheWeek.com, from whence this article comes. All photos by Thomas Peter, of Reuters.

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