Nagoro, the Japanese village where most of the inhabitants are dolls

Nagoro is a small “very special” village, not easily accessible, lost in the middle of the Iya valley on the isle of Shikoku in the prefecture of Tokushima, Japan. This  unique peculiarity results in the fact that, instead of being populated by people, the majority of its inhabitants are dolls (there are only 27 humans).

Yes, yes, it’s not a film. Because, although 60 years ago Nagoro had hundreds of inhabitants and was full of life… it later suffered a period where the population dwindled, as most of its dwellers left in search of jobs or simply passed away… That’s why, when Tsukimi Avano, 71 years old, decided to return to Nagoro over 14 years ago to care for her father, and she saw the distressing situation… she decided to repopulate it with dolls she handmade herself, by filling them with straw, using sticks wrapped in newspaper, wool and old clothes, in an effort to cope better with loneliness.

“The 350 dolls made by Ayano and her friends surpass the number of residents by more than 10:1.”

She has been doing this for more than 16 years, and Nagoro currently has more than 350 life size resident dolls. So you get the idea, Tsukimi Ayano has “repopulated” the whole village, from the school with dozens of dolls waiting patiently for class to start, to hundreds of spots around the town, including her house, in this Japanese village.

But … how did it all start?

In the plot in front of her house in Nagoro, she planted some radish and snap pea seeds, and to avoid the birds eating them, she made a scarecrow in the image of her dad. It was so realistic that she opted to place more dolls that looked like women weeding and others by the side of the path. And what happened? Well, some travellers stopped and asked the dolls for directions! Tsukimi was tickled by this, so she decided to make more. From immortalizing the rest of the members of her family to recreating many ex-inhabitants of the village. In this way, when one strolls around Nagoro, you can feel the presence of “people” working in the fields, fishing in the river, simply sitting by the roadside or apparently carrying out other every day activities. And the truth is that from afar… they all seem to have a life of their own…

“She now gives classes on how to make dolls in a nearby village or in her studio, located in an old children’s nursery in the village.”

We’ll say no more, although this story may seem a little creepy, the truth is that with this initiative Tsukimi managed to attract tourists and put Nagoro on the map.

Valley of Dolls from Fritz Schumann on Vimeo.

(*) Photo: Christopher Khoitran.


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