Shikoku is one of the five main islands of Japan and it is the second smallest. The island is home to the picturesque Nagoro 'doll' village. Once home to around 300 people, the village now has only 26 souls.
Tsukimi Ayano was the last one to born on Nagoro village. After her birth, Tsukimi's parents, like many others in the village, left Nagoro in search of a livelihood. In 2001, after the death of her father Tsukimi returned to her birthplace. She was then 49 years old. She felt bad for the abandoned shops and houses in the almost deserted village. She set out to save this beautiful village from loneliness. Other villagers also joined to help her.
She started making dolls to look almost like human beings and decorating abandoned shops and houses in the village. She has since made more than 400 dolls. Many are also likenesses of residents or former residents, while others are invented people. From a distance one can easily mistake them as real human.
In 2012, the only school in the village was closed due to lack of students. With Tsukimi's initiative, the village school is no longer empty. The classroom is full of puppet teachers and students. Rows of one or more dolls can be seen all day long in the farming style in the village field. The village grocery and tea shops are also full of 'doll' customers.
Other dolls include three men sitting at the base of a telephone pole on the outskirts of the village, a man fishing in the river, a group in a bus shelter, and utility workers performing roadwork.
In 2014, Tsukimi's initiative came to the world's attention with a documentary called "Valley of Dolls". In 2020, the village was also featured in the final episode of "James May: Our Man in Japan", where James was made a scarecrow based on his likeness.
Nagoro village is now a tourist attraction. A small number of tourists visit the place regularly due to its uniqueness. Tsukimi's dolls could not help to increase the real population but they certainly created a source of income to provide better lifestyle to the remaining residents.