Nagoro also known as the doll village is actually not known at all… Every single Japanese person that I mentioned it to didn’t know what I was talking about. Like if it didn’t exist, like if it was a ghost town. Which it is…
The village is situated between the charming and ever green valley and rivers of the Shikoku region. Just like many other rural areas it suffered from closing a nearby company which was a big employer for hundreds of people. And over the years it became deserted. Some wanted opportunities and education and some well… passed away.
Tsukimi Ayano was one of those who left but she never forgot her childhood home. After years of working in Osaka she returned and without having much to do she decided to start her own garden. Unfortunately birds ate all her seeds and that brought her to an idea to create her first scarecrow. That one was supposed to resemble her father. Now 10 years and 350 dolls later Nagoro is the weirdest village I have ever seen.
To get there we took a few buses which are not very frequent and take hours. No wonder because no one is going to send a bus for 35 habitants as that’s the alive population… We knew immediately we got to the right place, the dolls were already waiting for us at the bus stop. With a bit of mist, rain and not a living soul in our sight, it was a scene straight out of a thriller. But it’s not meant to be like this. The artist wants to show people she knew that passed away or left just how they liked living… So the dolls smile, drink beer, cycle, work in the garden, fish and anything you can imagine.
Since 2012 when the last two students had left the school, also there people have been replaced. Unbelievable considering that the school looks pretty new and has a nice, big gym attached to it.
Escaping from the rain we entered the old cultural center where dolls were in the middle of the reunion. Old, young, in kimonos, with cigarettes, smiling, angry… every single doll was different and it felt like they had a soul on their own.
In so many places we really had to look twice if it was a doll or a person, especially from the back many looked very convincing. During the whole day we saw two people in the village and many, many great human imitations. There is no shop in the surrounding, no café, not even a vending machine. And when there is no vending machine in Japan, it certainly means that it’s a god forsaken town…
Tsukimi is now in her sixties but she is the youngest of the whole community of 35. Maybe she will outlive them all and turn it into a Ghibli studio village… I still don’t know if I liked it but I’m certainly happy we saw it. Somehow I feel that special places like this one are only possible to exist in Japan.