Nagoro: The Village Re-Populated With Scarecrows


Parish Watch
Staff member
Oct 29, 2002
East of Suez
Ayano Tsukimi, the scarecrow master of Shikoku.

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(Extracted from a long article with numerous illustrative photographs)

Nagoro, The Scarecrow Village

“Well,” she [Ayano Tsukimi] began. “I grew up here but left to go to Osaka with my parents when I was in secondary school. I stayed there, got married and had children. At one point my parents moved back here and then, when my mother passed away, I came back to care of my father. That was in 2002.

“I made the first kakashi…”

I stopped her. “I’m sorry, but what was that word?”

“Kakashi. The figures farmers use to scare away birds from their crops.”

“Ah, kakashi!” Scarecrows.

“I made the first kakashi to scare away the birds. I noticed that they were eating the seeds in that field out there” – she pointed outside her doorway – “and so I wanted to shoo them away.”

“I made a few more for that purpose. Then when our neighbour up the road passed away, I missed her – I used to talk with her every day. So I made a scarecrow that looked like her, so that I could continue to greet her every morning.

“Over time,” she said, with a shrug and a sigh, “more and more of the villagers passed away. I began to make scarecrows to remember them and in a way to keep them alive.”

She paused. I sipped my tea and watched. For a moment, a cloud passed over her face, shadowing the sun of her smile. Then it evaporated, and she pointed to a figure seated on the tatami behind me, a wise-looking woman with braided grey hair made of thick yarn, clad in an elegant grey kimono. “That’s my mother,” she said. “I still talk to her every day. Would you like to take a walk?”

We wandered a few minutes down the road to an imposing two-storey concrete building behind a dirt playground. “This used to be the elementary school,” she said. “But over the years, the students became fewer and fewer until finally, last year, they closed the school. Now all the students in this area go to a school 30 minutes away by bus.”

There was no regret in her voice; she was simply stating the facts. “Come inside!” she said, opening the door into the school.

As we walked, I could hardly believe my eyes. Scarecrows were everywhere. A scarecrow principal supervised the hallway, scarecrow teachers gathered in a teachers’ lounge, and in a schoolroom, 20 scarecrow children were seated obediently at their desks, textbooks open, earnestly looking at the scarecrow teacher at the front of the room. On the blackboard behind her was written, ‘My future dream’ – the Japanese equivalent of ‘What I want to be when I grow up’.


Nagoro’s story is not unique. Every year it’s played out in hundreds of villages around Japan. Children growing up in these remote areas, dealing with the demanding conditions of rural life, are seduced by the allure of big cities – conveniences, jobs, entertainment – and leave their hometowns, never to return.

The dilemma is common, but Ayano-san’s response has been pure, wholehearted and unique. A few times a week she gathers cloth, batting, newspaper, wire and clothing, and begins to craft a figure who represents a cherished grandmother or grandfather who has passed away, or a child who moved to the city, or even a visitor who has left a mark on her heart.

She has chosen to repopulate her village with these eminently un-scary scarecrows, and she fills them with art and soul and loving memory.


Short video documentary here:


King-Sized Canary
Aug 25, 2001
Reminds me of that tome in the classic Bizarre Books about making dolls out of women's tights. A glimpse into the future, evidently.


Abominable Snowman
Nov 3, 2009
In view of Ms. Tsukimi's project as told of here -- what likelihood I wonder, of success in Japan: for translations of Barbara Euphan Todd's Worzel Gummidge childrens' books? (popular in the pre- and post-WW2 eras, about a tribe of -- intermittently -- living-and-talking scarecrows, and their relations with the local humans; also, I gather, made into a telly series).