Children fill the classrooms in the village school, a man fishes in the river, while others await a bus in a roadside shelter. They’re all made from straw. Welcome to Nagoro. Hidden in the tranquil valleys of Shikoku, artist Ayano Tsukimi has spent years repopulating a village that, having once boasted more than 350 permanent residents (her father included), has seen its numbers drop to fewer than 40. Her life-size dolls depict former inhabitants. The result couldn’t be creepier.
Sightseers head to the Scarecrow Village, where the mannequins outnumber living humans, for an experience that is unsettling in the extreme. There are workers in the fields and fixing the roads, cyclists taking a break in the afternoon sun, whilst the village elders sit and watch from a spot in the shade. None are real and all have the power to perturb. Nagoro really is an eerie place.