The village of Nagoro in southern Japan was once home to hundreds of families. Over time, most of its residents left to find work in the cities. Just 35 people live there today, most of them pensioners.

However, a visitor might, for a brief moment, be fooled into thinking the village is still bustling. Brightly-dressed figures can be seen outside the shops and waiting at the bus stop for a bus that will never come.

But the figures aren't people – they're scarecrows.

Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Tsukimi Ayano arranges a scarecrow at a bus stop in NagoroThomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
A vehicle drives past scarecrows sitting outside a closed-down shop in the village of NagoroThomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters

Tsukimi Ayano made her first scarecrow 13 years ago to frighten off birds pecking at seeds in her garden. She created a life-sized straw doll that resembled her father, and was inspired to make more. And more...

Today, the tiny village in is populated by 150 of Ayano's hand-sewn creations.

Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Tsukimi Ayano walks towards a scarecrow that she made as a likeness of herselfThomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Tsukimi Ayano arranges a scarecrow that represents her fatherThomas Peter/Reuters

Nagoro, like many villages in the Japanese countryside, was hit hard by the migration of its younger residents to cities, leaving the elderly behind. Its greying community is a microcosm of Japan; the country's population has been falling for a decade and is projected to drop from 127 million to 87 million by 2060.

At 65, Ayano is among the youngest residents of Nagoro. The village school was shut in 2012 after its only two pupils graduated. Scarecrow students now sit at the desks and loiter silently in the corridors.

Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Scarecrows representing pupils and a teacher sit in a classroom in a closed-down school in the village of NagoroThomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Tsukimi Ayano stands with scarecrows seated in a classroom at a closed-down schoolThomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
A scarecrow pupil "reads" a book at a desk in the abandoned schoolThomas Peter/Reuters

Since 2002, Ayano has made about 350 scarecrows, usually dressed in hand-me-downs. Sometimes she makes scarecrows in the likeness of young people who have left Nagoro or residents who have died.

"They're created as requests for those who've lost their grandfather or grandmother," Osamu Suzuki, a 68-year-old resident, told Reuters. "So it's something to bring back memories."

Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters

Tourists have started to come too, drawn by the two lifeless delegates guarding the road leading to the village, next to a board identifying Nagoro as "Scarecrow Village".

Some may find the scarecrows sinister, but Ayano says she is happy to show her work to visitors. On her daily rounds, she walks around the village bidding her motionless creations a good morning as she tends to their needs.

Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Thomas Peter/Reuters
Scarecrow village Nagoro Japan
Tsukimi Ayano serves tea in her house, which is also home to some scarecrowsThomas Peter/Reuters