In a world where overpopulation becomes a greater concern with each passing day, Japan seems to be having the opposite problem. As their average age rapidly increases and their birthrate falls, it is estimated that by the year 2060 there will be 40 million fewer people in Japan than there are today.
This is most noticeable in the countryside, because the nation’s youth tend to relocate to the larger cities to find work. This has caused more than 10,000 villages to become depopulated, their homes and shops crumbling from lack of use. The jobs go, the youth go, the schools go, the aged pass away, the infrastructure stops being maintained, and then the ghosts seem to move in.
The village of Nagoro now has a population 35 people, all over the age of 65. Nagoro’s residents can remember a time not so long ago when it was a bustling little community with hundreds of families. Now things are too quiet. Everything, including the school, has shut down.
So Tsukimi Ayano, one of the few people who remain, decided to populate the deserted village with more than 400 scarecrows. You see them everywhere. At the bus stop, the post office, the school, in the fields, sitting on bicycles in the roadway, at the vegetable stand, fishing in the creek and sitting in the cafes. She greets them every day, and many of them have been made to resemble a resident who has passed away or moved on.
This scarecrow village has started to attract tourists, which is wonderful, but I think I’d find a visit there to be rather depressing. Although their creator may not agree, I can’t help but think that these scarecrows represent a longing for the past. Just gazing at photographs of them causes me to ache with loneliness. I suspect that when the tourists depart at the end of the day, one looks around in the silence and hears the echoes of what once was, and what will probably never be again.