Nestled in the hidden valleys of Shikoku, Japan, is the village of Nagoro. Its remote location has led its residents to leave for big cities in search for work. With not even a local store, there's little reason for immigration, so as residents die there is no one left to fill their void. Nagoro is slowly shrinking.
Eleven years ago, Ayano Tsukimi returned to her home in Nagoro. Confronted with constant departures, she has populated the village with dolls, each representing a former villager. Around 350 of the giant dolls now reside in and around Nagoro, replacing those that died or abandoned the village years ago.
In a recent documentary titled The Valley Of Dolls, Fritz Schumann explores Tsukimi's world, highlighting the time and artistry that goes into making the figures, and explaining her motivations. In it we're shown around a local school, once filled with children and teachers, that now houses dozens of dolls, sitting statically, waiting for class to begin.
Tsukimi discovered her craft almost by accident. When seeds that she planted failed to grow, she decided to build a scarecrow in the likeness of her father. It was only then that she fell upon the idea to recreate the village she once knew. The dolls are made with straw, fabric, and old clothes, much like a humble scarecrow, and Tsukimi is constantly making new figures to replace ones that have worn out.
Although the documentary offers a beautiful look at the village and Tsukimi's dolls, you can 'visit' Nagoro at your own pace thanks to the ubiquity of Google Maps' StreetView. Many of the figures are positioned right beside the roadside — Tsukimi intentionally places them there to attract visitors — making StreetView a practical tool for touring one of Japan's most remote locations.
Hint: Use the 's' and 'd' keys to navigate
All images copyright Fritz Schumann.