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Issue No. 16 - Chaos

Sue Chalom: Obscure Japan

While discovering rural Japan, one can  turn a corner and see a life-like figure on the side of the road with his motorcycle, in the field a woman looking perfectly groomed tilling the soil, an entire family waiting at a bus stop….these are the Mythological Japanese scarecrows“KAKASHI”, known as ” KAGASHI” in the Edo Period (meaning smelling badly); a welcomed contrast to the beautifully manicured fields, trees, and cherry blossoms. They started from the tradition of hanging  the likes of dead crows and fish in the rice fields to protect their crops.  The Mountain God is meant to possess the bodies of these scarecrows in a Shamanic manner, overseeing their fields and paddies in the warm weatherand leaving during the winter to the Other World.The Japanese have taken the making of scarecrows to an art form and create these life like characters, placing them in their fields for visitors and locals to enjoy….sometimes even entering into scarecrow contests and festivals throughout Japan.

Ayano Tsukimi has embraced this tradition and has been filling her increasingly sparsly populated town with these Kakashi. Tsukimi's Kakashi are not just representations of an unknown farmer or someone waiting for a bus, but effigies of those in the village that have died. The result is haunting and unusual population of a small village. Tsukimi has even made one of herself.

Photographs by Sue Chalom.

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