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When Scarecrows Worked Too Well: Nagoro, The Valley Of Dolls - Japan's Face Of Depopulation

Written By Suchitra Karthikeyan | Mumbai | Published:


  • Nagoro, a village in Japan has a population of 27 people and 270 scarecrows
  • 69-year old dollmaker, Tsukimi Ayano began placing scarecrows on the street, 16 years ago, to inject some life into the depopulated village
  • Japan is on the brink of becoming the world's first 'ultra-aged' country i.e. 28% of the people are aged 65 years or above

When Indians travel in packed trains, they often dream of a deserted haven, where the wind howls down deserted streets, without a living soul in sight.

Such a place exists.

In Japan is a tiny village called Nagoro over as it is famously known - the Valley of Dolls, 550 km southwest of Tokyo, where not many humans inhabit yet the street appear busy.

The reason - life-size dolls crowd these deserted streets outnumbering the living by ten to one.

These dolls are a one-woman effort to battle the empty and lonely shell of society in Nagoro, which is struggling with depopulation like many other Japenese villages.

The place gained its reputation as the Valley of Dolls after the 69-year old dollmaker, Tsukimi Ayano, began placing scarecrows on the street,16 years ago, to 'inject some life' into the deserted village.

Speaking to the news agency Agence France-Press (AFP), she said," Only 27 people live in this village but the number of scarecrows is tenfold, like 270."

The whole scarecrow saga began when Ayano created a scarecrow and dressed it up in her father's clothes to shoo away crows from her garden. People passing by had presumed that the doll was her father.

"A worker who saw it in the garden thought it was really my father and said hello...," recalled Ayano.

Since the debut of her 'father-figure' Ayano has continued creating these life-size dolls with bodies of wooden sticks and newspapers, hair made of knitting wool and elastic fabric for the skin.

While Nagaro was always, sparsely populated Ayano recalls her childhood when there were 300 residents and labourers due to the forestry industry and the dam construction work.

Nagaro reflects the plight of entire Japan which while being the world's third-largest economy, is currently battling declining population, low birth rate, and high life expectancy. It is on the brink of becoming the world's first 'ultra-aged' country i.e. 28% of the people are aged 65 years or above.

While people have not returned to Nagoro, Ayano's dolls are certainly catching the eye of the international media which she hopes would bring tourists to visit the Valley of Dolls.