Nagoro, Village of Dolls

Written by on March 2, 2024

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.

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