Nagoro, a Near-deserted Village in Japan, Known as the “Village of Dolls,” Has more Dolls than Humans!

by Piya Sengupta12 months ago
Picture Nagoro, a Near-deserted Village in Japan, Known as the “Village of Dolls,” Has more Dolls than Humans!

A tiny village in Japan has managed to keep its population fairly constant despite difficulties like aging, death, and migration to cities. But how? This village, named Nagoro, also known as the “Village of Dolls,” has more dolls residing there than humans.

Dolls have replaced humans
Dolls have replaced humans. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

Nestled deep in the valleys of Oku-lya, surrounded by mountainsides and cedar trees, this small village has less than 30 living residents today. The rest are dolls, and they silently keep the village populated. Today, Nagoro is a major tourist attraction because of this unique collection of life-size scarecrow dolls, a haunting reminder of the days and people long gone.

Who is Ayano Tsukimi, the creator behind the Village of Dolls?

Ayano Tsukimi
Ayano Tsukimi. Image source: Offbeatjapan.org

Ayano Tsukimi was born in Nagoro and grew up in this little rural community before moving to the busy city of Osaka. When she came back at age 67 to attend to her ailing father,  her childhood hamlet, had changed entirely. Nagoro, which once had a population of nearly 300, was struggling with just around 35 residents, most of them old. Ayano started her unique creations in 2003 by building a scarecrow doll of her father standing in the field after he passed away. She said in an interview that a lot of people waved to the doll, thinking it was real, and that intrigued her!

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Nagoro the scarecrow Village in Japan
Waiting at the bus stop. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

Since then, she has made over 350 unique dolls resembling someone who died or left the village. These doppelgangers are crafted with cloth and love and wear real clothes, accessories, and belongings. In a documentary titled “The Valley of Dolls,” Ayano said that when she makes dolls of dead people, she thinks about them when they were alive and healthy. For her, the dolls are like her children.

Village of Dolls
A busy working day. Dolls have different professions too. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

Ever since she came back to Nagoro, Ayano missed the chatter of children and took matters into her own hand. Today, around 40 children crowd the school’s empty classrooms, attending classes attentively as two teachers deliver lessons, stuck in a time warp where the class bells never ring, and the children do not ever go home!

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What does Nagoro, the Village of Dolls, look like?

A hiking couple in Nagoro
A hiking couple, taking a rest by the road. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

Today, Nagoro, sadly, has only around two dozen adults left and remains eerily empty, devoid of the sounds of life and the laughter of children. But since Ayano has come back, the village has come alive, repopulated with life-size dolls, in an unconventional but enchanted way.

A Woman working in the fields.
A Woman working in the fields.
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Ayano has placed these dolls throughout Nagoro, including in fields, bus stops, roadsides, and abandoned schools. The dolls, dressed in old clothes and doing daily activities, remain frozen in a repetitive loop – forever. A few of them are seen waiting at the bus stop for a bus that never arrives. Someone is seen working in the fields. Children attend classes studiously, while an old woman sits by the grave of a loved one, eternally. These silent inhabitants of fabric and paper create an eerie yet fascinating picture of the whole village.

Each doll has different looks
Each doll has a different look. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

In recent years, this Village of Dolls has become a tourist attraction bringing visitors from all over the world to see this one-of-a-kind village where lifeless dolls bring the place back to life.

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The problem is Japan’s shrinking and aging rural population.

Nagoru village
The Nagoru village dolls. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

The emptiness of Nagoro is just one example of Japan’s rapidly shrinking rural charm, as well as the declining and aging population. In Japan, birth rates are decreasing rapidly, with death outpacing births every year. According to statistics, there were 800,000 fewer births in 2022. Japan also has the world’s second-highest proportion of people over 65 and is struggling to provide for the fastest-growing number of elderly residents. Despite government subsidies for childcare, pregnancy, or childbirth, youngsters still struggle to afford and get discouraged from starting families. More and more youngsters also moving away from the villages to bigger cities like Osaka or Tokyo, where there are more universities and job opportunities. Hundreds of little hamlets are slowly fading into oblivion, with no one to uphold their legacy and heritage.

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Nagoro, Japan’s Bizarre Doll Village
Nagoro, Japan’s bizarre doll village. Image credit: Retirementbonus/shutterstock.com

Nagoro, the Village of Dolls, has a superhero who has kept the village alive even today. Let us hope that somewhere, there are more heroes like Ayano Tsukimi, keeping alive the heritage of Japan in strange, magical ways.

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Picture Nagoro, a Near-deserted Village in Japan, Known as the “Village of Dolls,” Has more Dolls than Humans!
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