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Nagoro, the Village of Dolls

The little village of Nagoro, deep in the valleys of Tokushima Prefecture is known around the world as the Village of the Dolls. As the population of Nagoro declined precipitately, Tsukimi Ayano started to replace the people who left or died with life-sized replicas made of straw and old clothes.

Nagoro, the Village of Dolls

The little village of Nagoro, deep in the valleys of Tokushima Prefecture on Shikoku, is known around the world today as the Village of the Dolls. These dolls are called kakashi or scarecrows in Japanese, but their purpose is to combat loneliness rather than bird pests. As the population of Nagoro declined precipitately, an elderly resident, Tsukimi Ayano, started to replace the people who left or died with life-sized replicas made of straw and old clothes. These dolls are placed naturalistically around the hamlet, in realistic poses.

The road that passes through Nagoro heads past the double vine bridges of Oku-Iya on the way to Mt. Tsurugi. When you visit the area, you drive through similar hamlets – there are houses and the occasional shop, but no people can be seen. The aged population are invisible. Arriving in Nagoro, the first sight of the dolls comes as a shock. The hamlet seems positively busy, but none of the people are real. You can wander around and photograph all of the dolls, and not see a single living person. It’s uncanny.

Since Nagoro isn’t signposted and it’s easy to get lost, it’s best to visit the hamlet on a taxi tour. The driver can show you where all the dolls are, because it isn’t obvious.

Due to the power of the internet, the dolls have become known globally, and as a result, they’ve become something of a local art form of their own. Now you can find them in other parts of Tokushima too, in places that could use a little human interest.

In each season, the dolls present a different mood. But whatever time of year you visit, Nagoro always feels more than a little haunted.

We offer several Iya Valley tours that stop at Nagoro.

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