Weird dolls inhabiting Nagoro village
No Hallowe’en story can be compared to the real Japanese village of Nagoro. The village is inhabited by weird life-size dolls of dead people, made by Ayano Tsukimi. Slowly dying village, due to the natural death of its people, is turning into a surreal village with its puppet world of schoolchildren, teachers, even a principal, farmers working on the field, residents waiting for their bus at the bus stop. Everything in this scenery – School, bus stop, field – is real, but the people are handmade by a local craftswoman Ayano Tsukimi, who shares her thoughts and story in a 2014 documentary “The Valley Of Dolls” by Fritz Schumann.
The story told by creator of dolls, Japanese craftswoman Ayano Tsukimi:
When I make dolls of dead people, I think about them when they were alive and healthy. The dolls are like my children. When I was a child there was a dam here. There was a big company and hundreds of people used to live here. Now there are only 37 people living here and many times more dolls. Maybe a time will come when I will have outlived all the people in thus village.
I came back 11 years ago from Osaka. I started making the dolls around 10 years ago. I didn’t have much to do. I planted seeds, but none of them sprouted. I thought we need scarecrows. So I made one doll looking like my father. I never thought it would turn into this… The number of dolls I’ve made… about 350.
The facial expressions are the hardest part. The lips are difficult. A little tweak and they can look angry. I am very good at making grandmothers. I pull the strings in the mouth and they smile.
In the old school that shut down two years ago there were two students and one teacher. Now I made the students, teachers and principal. My mother died early. If she were alive today, I would like to take her out to places.
I only think about the dolls. I don’t like making weird dolls, but people who blend into the scenery. I thought people will get interested and take photos if I put dolls at the entrance of the valley. I put them on the field, doing work, or waiting for the bus.
Not everybody likes my dolls, I think. If they don’t say it directly, some may feel frightened, because they look so real. The dolls don’t live as long as humans, they can live up to three years max. I don’t think about death, but it takes 90 minutes to get to a proper hospital, so if something happened, I would probably die before making it there. I have a doll based on myself. Every day she watches the pot and the fire. She is taking a nap now. I don’t think dying is scary, I’ll probably live on forever.
Tsukimi started her craft by accident. She planted seeds, but none of them sprouted, so she decided to make a scarecrow which would look like her father. Then came an idea to recreate the village residents she used to know. She uses straw, fabric, old clothes, to create her dolls, and replace worn out dolls.