Nagoro, Village of Dolls
Nagoro, 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.
Note that if you want to go to Nagoro, you have to travel for several hours on winding railways, then an hour or so more on narrow, winding roads. This isn’t a suburb of Tokushima city. It’s deep in the valleys of Oku-Iya which means Deep Iya, and plain Iya is already pretty deep. You can see and photograph everything there is to see in Nagoro in about an hour, maybe a little more. If you take the trouble to visit Nagoro, you might as well see some of the other fantastic things in the area, including the Double Vine Bridges, Tsurugi Shrine, and even Mt. Tsurugi itself, which is accessible by chairlift. For the full experience, a night’s stay at a kominka in Oku-Iya is also highly recommended.
Name in Japanese: かかしの里
Pronunciation: kakashi no sato
Address: 191 Higashiiyasugeoi, Miyoshi, Tokushima 778-0201