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In the first episode of the Zatoichi series there is a scarecrow whose face is drawn using various hiragana.

When I seen it it occurred to me that I've seen that done somewhere else before.

Is there a story behind this hiragana face ?

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It sounds like you are referring to Henohenomoheji (へのへのもへじ). It is sometimes used on Japanese scarecrows (かかし) and teru teru bōzu (てるてる坊主) dolls. The name refers to the Hiragana characters used to create the face.

enter image description here

According to the Japanese Wikipedia article, the exact origins are unknown, although it has apparently not been seen earlier than the Edo period.

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