DEERMEADE, Japan — If you’ve driven past this town in Japan’s Kagoshima Prefecture, you may have spotted the glorious 40-foot-tall deer statue that looks like it hails from the wild — until you peek inside its tightly shut mouth.
The arresting sculpture of the sacred ancient deer hails from the town’s annual fair — Nara’s major money-maker.
Every year, officials construct a clear plastic bag around the doe’s gigantic paw, so that you can actually reach inside and see the animal’s antlers. Last year, a groundswell of visitors compared the rodent’s jaw to Darth Vader, causing officials to carefully craft the latest iteration.
The eye-catching plastic bag that this year’s deer wore was reportedly cooked up by a local company called 4-Megu.
The local customs may be fading, but the deer statue is as much a part of Japan’s quirky countryside culture as the lining around Nara’s buildings.
Aging farmers have long relied on the slightly anachronistic protection as an insurance against the cruel winters.
The enclosure might’ve been put up for domestic dogs and cats, too, but it is tucked away on the side of a small goat farm, amid less-advanced properties, just above busy roadways.
For photo editor Ashkan Karbasfrooshan, this year’s statue was a chance to learn from its past while looking forward to the future.
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