Valley of Dolls: a Japanese Ghost Village

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  • With a low birthrate and an aging population, the aftermath of the effects of Japan’s shrinking population is worse outside the big cities. The charm of big cities is obvious: shopping centers are everywhere, convenience stores are nearby, and most importantly, there are plenty of schools and work opportunities. That’s why the number of young adults moving away from the countryside is so numerous.

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    The phenomenon of people leaving towns in favor of urban areas has been documented for decades, but Japan’s shrinking population is adding another layer to the problem as small towns and villages become so small and scarcely populated they risk being ghost towns.

    More than a decade ago, a Japanese woman returned to her home in Nagoro, an oddity since inhabitants had continued to die or move away. When making a scarecrow from some seeds that failed to grow, she discovered her skills of making human-sized dolls. Her first doll was supposed to resemble her father, and thus she continued making dolls to replace those who had abandoned the village or died.

    These eerie dolls can be found waiting at the bus stop, sitting at schools while eagerly waiting for their lessons to begin, or next to streets to attract visitors and make the lonely village a bit more lively.

    If you do not have the chance to come to Shikoku Island to visit Nagoro and the more than 350 dolls yourself, you can catch a glimpse of them on Google Street View.

    The 65-year-old, Mrs. Ayano, is married but her husband and daughter live far away in Osaka. She resides in Nagoro with her 84-year-old father in her family home.

    Beautiful and sad at the same time, the city of Nagoro is a cruel reminder of the fate that awaits many Japanese towns and villages.

    Fritz Schumann made this wonderful documentary you can watch here:

    Valley of Dolls from Fritz Schumann on Vimeo.

    *Featured Image by waltersim on Instagram
    : waltersim/Walter/