A “road-cutting” (michikiri) can be found at the entrance to some small villages. The belief was that both demons and diseases could be stopped on the path by this “barrier”. The spot is indicated by a rope stretched across and sometimes hung with objects made of straw – sandals, dice, snakes, octopodes.
Some interesting pictures here, and some rather adorable snake decorations here. As far as I can tell, the text says when they are finished the snakes are given sake to drink that contains the soul of a deceased person. This is related to the Japanese myth about an eight-headed “serpent”, a dragon that was tricked into getting drunk and felling asleep so that it could be slain by the hero. Because making the straw snakes takes so much time, it is not done as often in modern times.