Art is breaking out all over Kamiyama in Tokushima Prefecture. Mysterious arrangements of rocks are appearing in the verdant hills of this northeastern Shikoku town. Small wooden huts -- equipped with artistic stamps and ink pads for visitors to document their passage -- are dotted about the town. An abandoned grade school has morphed into an ad-hoc repository of carvings, paper creations and lamps crafted from trees.

This is all a bold artistic experiment -- and the citizens of Kamiyama (whose kanji mean "god's mountain") are embracing it as a salvation of sorts.

Located about 25 km from the eponymous prefectural capital, this bucolic town sits amid lush forests and is split by a crystal-clear brook. It has, however, been blighted by depopulation. So much so, in fact, that the number of residents has plummeted to nearly 8,000 from a peak of more than 21,000 a few decades ago.