The inhabitants of a small village discover a strange phenomenon in their cemetery; when a scarecrow is planted at a grave, it gradually gains the face of the person buried there. But are appearances the only thing passed on...?
In a quiet rural village, a pair of farmers watch a solemn procession of mourners, led by an older man carrying a box of ashes. It is the funeral of Yuki Numata, a young woman who was thought to have committed suicide; the man leading the procession is her father. The farmers comment on Mr. Numata's misfortune; his wife died not too long ago, and now he's lost his only daughter too. One farmer comments that they've seen a fair few deaths in the village, including a boy named Shigeru whose body was found near the river. He notes that there was quite a fuss over the boy being potentially murdered, but nothing came of it.
At the local cemetery, Mr. Numata is utterly distraught; his brother-in-law has to remind him that burying Yuki's remains is the only way for her spirit to get to heaven. Weeks pass, and he still visits her grave regularly; the other villagers are alternately concerned and sympathetic, unable to imagine his grief. As a group of children examine a scarecrow in the nearby field, a young man goes to the cemetery, dressed in a suit and carrying a large bouquet of flowers. Mr. Numata immediately becomes hostile, recognizing the man as Yuki's boyfriend, Toshio. He violently attacks him, blaming him for his daughter's death and refusing to acknowledge him as his son-in-law. Toshio refuses to leave until he has paid his respects, so Mr. Numata steals a scarecrow and places it next to the grave in an effort to scare "varmints" like Toshio away.
The farmers soon discover that their scarecrow has been moved, believing that the children stole it as a prank. When they go to the cemetery to retrieve it, something makes them stop and stare in confusion; a moment later, Mr. Numata comes by to apologize for taking it. Looking at the scarecrow, however, he sees what has caught the farmers' attention: the previously featureless head has begun to develop facial features and realistic dark hair.
Four days later, the scarecrow's face and hair have developed to the point where Mr. Numata clearly identifies it as Yuki. He tries to speak to her, but gets no response; undeterred, he pulls it out of the grave to take it home. On his way out, he passes by Shigeru's parents, who have come to mourn at their son's grave; however, when he shows them the scarecrow, its face has returned to a simple drawing. Shigeru's parents can only stare in bewilderment as Mr. Numata cheerfully continues home.
Some days later, a group of young men sets out to look at the scarecrow, which has been returned to its place near Yuki's grave; once again, it looks almost exactly like her, complete with her hands and clothes. As the men marvel, Mr. Numata arrives, addressing the scarecrow as Yuki herself. He explains that the scarecrow reverted to its original appearance when he took it home, only to regain Yuki's features when he put it back near her grave. He reveals his belief that Yuki's soul is somehow being channeled into the scarecrow, although she still hasn't responded to his attempts to talk with her; he even put her favorite outfit on the scarecrow because he feels that it's what she would have wanted.
By the time Toshio returns to place flowers on Yuki's grave, the cemetery is full of scarecrows, placed by villagers in front of the graves of their loved ones. People can be seen trying to talk to the scarecrows, commenting on the progress of their changes, or simply studying the curious phenomenon. Toshio stops in front of Yuki's scarecrow, transfixed by his girlfriend's likeness as she seems to stare down at him.
Elsewhere in the cemetery, Shigeru's father attempts to dissuade his wife, Setsuko, from placing a scarecrow at their son's grave. He comments that it's unnerving to see scarecrows with human faces, and that it won't bring their son back; Setsuko counters that she'll still get to see his face again, adding that he isn't even Shigeru's real father. When she asks if he has a reason for not wanting to see their son again, Shigeru's father relents at last, mentally musing that "I've got nothing to be afraid of. It's not like they can talk..."
In a grassy field, Toshio finds himself meeting Yuki, alive and well. He tells her that they're going to get married, no matter what Mr. Numata says; Yuki asks "Even if I look like that?" as she points to her scarecrow nearby. Toshio immediately jolts awake to find himself wearing his pajamas and sitting in the graveyard, despite knowing that he left after laying flowers on Yuki's grave. As he wonders how he returned, he notices Yuki's scarecrow looming over him, her eyes fixed on him. As a disbelieving Toshio wonders if her spirit lured him there, he hears whispers from the scarecrows all around him. Terrified, he runs away as the scarecrows seem to watch him, only stopping when he's in the field outside the cemetery. As he tries to catch his breath, he looks up to find himself back where he started; Yuki's scarecrow glares down at him as he screams in terror...
The next day, Mr. Numata says hello to a farmer on his way to the graveyard, bringing a jacket to keep "Yuki" warm. When he arrives at the graveyard, he finds Toshio lying underneath Yuki's toppled scarecrow, dead without any sign of trauma. Meanwhile, Shigeru's mother and stepfather are horrified to find that their son's scarecrow has fully developed its face; an evil, hate-filled expression that seems to follow the stepfather with its eyes. In a fury, he tries to pull the scarecrow from the ground, only to stumble and fall off a wall to his death. Looking down at the man's body - now impaled by the post of Shigeru's scarecrow - Setsuko softly muses that her suspicions were correct; her son was murdered, at his stepfather's hands.
Shigeru's face reverts to an eerily empty expression as Mr. Numata walks out of the cemetery, leaving Yuki's scarecrow lying atop the corpse of Toshio.