Lake Nojiri was once the glittering center of expat summers in Japan. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, hundreds of English-speaking families flocked to this secluded corner of Nagano Prefecture.

They came from around the world, drawn by its natural beauty and a community of residents with whom they shared language. Among the area’s notable denizens were historian John W. Dower and environmentalist C.W. Nicol.

Today, Nojiri’s abandoned homes and deserted stores — by no means uncommon sights throughout the Japanese countryside — suggest these golden years are over.