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The Village of Dolls

Nagoro, Japan is a town that goes by many names. Whether you call it Scarecrow Village, the Village of Dolls, or something similar, it all boils down to one thing—this community where the dolls far outnumber real residents, is far more meaningful than one might assume at first glance.

The Village of Dolls
Ayano Tsukimi showing off a few of her creations. Photo by Roberto Maxwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Located on the island of Shikoku, the village has a population of only 27 people—far fewer than the 300 dolls who call this village home. All are life-size and many were created in the image of a former resident who has moved or passed away. These dolls are the handiwork of one special woman, Ayano Tsukimi.

Tsukimi began making these “scarecrows” in 2002 when she returned to the village to look after her father. She made one to place in their field of crops which happened to look a lot like her father, and many of her neighbors mistook the scarecrow as him.

She soon began making dolls that resembled former and current residents and placing them in realistic poses across the small town. Today, the dolls can be found everywhere, doing everything—farming, fishing, sitting and waiting at bus stops or just hanging out.

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They have even made their way into a nearby school, which closed in 2012 after the last two students had graduated. These classrooms are home to many of Tsukimi’s dolls which are on display for all to see. There is even a classroom with two student dolls, representing the last two graduates (created by the students themselves).

The Village of Dolls
This photo by Roberto Maxwell is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

It takes Tsukimi about three days to make one doll. Each is made from straw, fabric, newspapers, and old clothes. She has made over 400 dolls to date—including replacing several older figures who were worn out from so much time spent in the elements.

Today, Nagoro remains small with a human population that is on the decline. However, this Village of Dolls has begun to attract a large number of tourists who wish to see the dolls up close. There is even a Scarecrow Festival, held each year on the first Sunday of October.

A deeper look at the Village of Dolls:

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