Dolls Outnumber People in Amazing Valley of Dolls

Nagoro, Japan is one of 10,000 towns and villages in Japan that are becoming depopulated as people die or move to big cities in search of employment. But Nagoro and the surrounding area is different from all of the others because it is has Ayano Tsukimi and the valley of dolls.

Ayano Tsukimi was born in Nagoro. She returned in her late fifties to care for her 87- year- old father.

The doll making started when Tsukimi made a scarecrow in the likeness of her father, hoping it would help to save their home garden. Then she made other family members. Then lifelike replacements for villagers.

Today, there are 350 dolls in Nagoro and nearby villages. Dolls outnumber the fewer than 35 residents by a factor of ten.

The Dolls in the Valley of Dolls

Tsukimi builds each doll on a wooden base. She wraps the doll in straw or newspapers to give it a body, and then dresses it in old clothes.

The dolls are placed in the locations where those individuals would have appeared in real life. Therefore, many of the dolls spend their time exposed to sun and rain. Every three years, replacement dolls need to be made. This is a task that Tsukimi is happy to do, especially now that the valley of dolls is a popular tourist destination.

Photographer Fritz Schumann took photographs and made this wonderful short video about the valley of dolls. I contacted Fritz. He was not able to give me permission to use his photographs. However, Fritz did encourage me to embed this video for your viewing pleasure. Please note that the photo at the top of the post is one I found on a free photo site that I talk about in another post. I know that the photo is from Japan, but do not know if it is from Nagoro.

Enjoy the video.

Valley of Dolls from Fritz Schumann on Vimeo.

I’d love to see the valley of dolls in person, but some who have been there say that it is creepy. What do you think? 

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  1. Wow, Karen, that is fascinating! The dolls remind me of the mannequins in the movie I am Legend but not as life like. These dolls are easy to pick out as dolls, at least to me. I don’t find them scary but sad. This poor woman is trying to populate the place she loves, rather than give up and move like others have done. I have to give her credit where it is due, though…her skills in doll making are incredible. Thanks for this post, Karen, once again through your research we get a glimpse of worlds which many of us will likely never see in person. 🙂

    1. Yes, I guess it is a bit sad, especially the part in the video where she talks about her distance from the hospital. That would be scary!
      On the other hand, Ayano looks in the video as if she has found her purpose. She seems very much engrossed in a labour of love and that is very neat. You’re right that she has great skills. I love her dolls.

      1. I agree, Karen, being that far from a hospital would be scary. It sounds to me like she has made her peace with it and has decided that living there is worth the risk for her. I do wonder where she gets all her materials from for all the dolls. There must be textile deliveries to the village along with anything they cannot grow on their own,

    1. I hear you, Donna. I really would love to see the place. I wonder if it would feel creepy. It might, but on the other hand, Ayano seems happy. Maybe there are lots of tourists now and her life is more social than before.

  2. I think this is creepy. Evidently it has given Ayano a purpose in life but it is a little too Stephen King-like for me.

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