While travelling through Shikoku prefecture, which is famous for its Buddhist pilgrimage site and nature, we made it one of our top priorities to visit an unusual place: Nagoro „scarecrow“ village.
We first heard of this place watching „James May in Japan“ on Prime, and since then were curious about it. The story behind Nagoro is sad, but probably quite common for small towns in rural areas – due to its remote location in the mountains and lack of infrastructure (just driving there was already quite adventurous), the town‘s population kept rapidly decreasing with almost noone left in recent years. However, one creative Japanese artist who grew up in Nagoro took it upon herself to change this in a way noone could have imagined – she started handcrafting scarecrow puppets that resemble former residents, even using their old clothes!
When I first heard about this town, I thought it might be scary to see the puppets sitting around and doing chores that former inhabitants were known doing. But then when we actually visited, I felt on the one hand very sad that this town has been left behind; and on the other hand so grateful for feeling invited to see such a magical place!
This is one of the best ideas I‘ve recently come across: reviving a diying town through art and handicraft. And not just that – as it is slowly getting known around the world, more and more tourists stop at Nagoro and write down a message for the people who still live in the village. In the center of the town is a small town office where we met some of the locals and were greeted with a friendly smile. After all, Nagoro is almost bustling again!
Two of my personal highlights are (1) the old school gym that you can visit where the annual festival is staged with the dolls in their finest outfits and with a backdrop of the forest; and (2) that by the entrance of the village I found the doll of a German NDR news reporter and suddenly felt very much at home!
I feel so grateful for the artist who brought new life into Nagoro village and showed us a way to turn something negative into something positive through art!