The tiny village of Nagoro on Shikoku, Japan, used to be home to a large company and hundreds of people. Now, there are only 37 inhabitants — or at least, only 37 living inhabitants. Nagoro is also home to scores of life-size stuffed dolls made by 64-year-old Ayano Tsukimi. Tsukimi sews and dresses the dolls and positions them around town to replace her neighbors who have moved away or died.
Tsukimi started her doll project about 10 years ago, after she moved back to her hometown from Osaka. She says she’s made about 350 dolls in that time, though they only last about three years before they need to be replaced. There are now many times more dolls than humans living in Nagoro, and Tsukimi wryly imagines a future where she’s outlived all her neighbors and only dolls remain.
The first doll, intended to be used as a scarecrow, was made in the image of Tsukimi’s father.
Others commemorate Nagoro residents, from children to old people.
There’s even a doll made to look like Tsukimi herself.
The dolls enjoy leisure activities.
Sometimes they canoodle.
But they also work hard and study.
Tsukimi acknowledges that some people may find the dolls unsettling.
But she’s more interested in drawing people to the Iya Valley, where Nagoro is located, than the Uncanny Valley. She hopes the dolls might attract tourists who want to take pictures.
Valley of Dolls from Fritz Schumann on Vimeo.