In the heart of the Iya Valley, nestled within a remote mountainous area of the Tokushima Prefecture, lies the tranquil Village of Nagoro.
This hidden jewel of Japan, although sparsely populated with human residents, has garnered worldwide attention for its unique population of scarecrow inhabitants. The village paints a vivid tableau of life, echoing the vibrancy and traditions that once filled its streets.
Today, Nagoro has transformed into a living museum, narrating poignant tales through its scarecrow population, each delicately crafted figure representing a fragment of the village’s rich history. Visitors are invited to immerse themselves in this unusual and captivating blend of art and memory, a testament to the enduring spirit and creativity found in this remarkable corner of Japan.
The scarecrow village of Nagoro
Over the years, Nagoro, like many other Japanese villages, has experienced a significant decrease in its population, primarily owing to the migration of younger generations to urban areas.
The village, which once buzzed with the chatter of children and the hustle and bustle of daily life, has seen a dramatic increase in the number of elderly residents. As the years passed, the vibrant life that once filled the valley has dwindled, leaving a silence that echoes with the whispers of the past.
History of the doll village – introducing Tsukimi Ayano
In a bid to combat loneliness and to breathe new life into the village, local resident Tsukimi Ayano embarked on a remarkable journey. It all began with a simple idea, sprouting from the depths of nostalgia and a yearning for the past.
Tsukimi, missing her father who had died, decided to craft a scarecrow in his likeness, dressed in his old clothes. This singular act of love and memory marked the inception of what would later become known as the Nagoro Doll Village.
With a palpable connection to the town, Tsukimi embarked on a mission to recreate the vibrancy that once encapsulated Nagoro. Through her artistic lens, she began to craft dolls Nagoro style, using old clothes and elastic fabric to breathe life into her creations.
Each doll, carefully crafted, embodies the likeness of former residents, standing as silent guardians and spectators of the changing times.
The Doll Making Process
The process of making these unique scarecrows involves meticulous craftsmanship. Tsukimi, often using old clothes donated by the villagers or those left behind by the departed, crafts each doll with a deep sense of love and respect. The elastic fabric gives the dolls a semblance of life, creating a visual narrative that bridges the past and the present.
Village School: A Classroom Filled with Scarecrows
At the heart of the scarecrow village lies the local school, a place once filled with the laughter and joy of children. As the population dwindled, the school witnessed a decline in students.
In an effort to preserve the memory of a time filled with learning and play, Tsukimi transformed the classrooms into a sanctuary of scarecrows. The village school, now a tourist attraction, features a doll teacher instructing an eager group of doll students, capturing the spirit and joy that once filled its halls.
Vine Bridges and Gardens
Apart from the illustrious scarecrow installations, Nagoro is home to various other attractions that allure visitors from different corners. One of the most striking features of the village is the vine bridges that are rooted deep in the valley’s history.
These bridges, juxtaposed with the meticulous gardens that dot the village landscape, provide a picturesque setting that transports visitors back to a time of simplicity and tranquility. A walk around these gardens reveals a rich biodiversity with a variety of plants, birds, and a gentle river meandering through the valley.
Visiting Iya valley and Nagoro
Planning a visit to the village of Nagoro is an adventure in itself. The nearest train station is situated quite a distance away, making the journey a chance to witness the serene landscapes of rural Japan. Once at the station, visitors can catch a bus to the village, with the bus stop conveniently located near the entrance to the village.
It is recommended to visit during the “Kakashi no Sato,” a festival held on the first Sunday of every October, where new dolls are introduced, bringing fresh life and stories to the village.
The establishment of the Nagoro Doll Village has had a profound impact on the community. The scarecrows, standing as silent witnesses to the passage of time, have served to combat loneliness, especially among the elderly residents who find solace and companionship among the life-like figures.
The dolls also foster a deep sense of community, uniting the residents in a common goal to preserve the memory and heritage of their beloved village.
Moreover, the village has seen a resurgence in tourism, bringing in visitors who are eager to witness the unique blend of art and life that Nagoro offers.
The villagers have found a renewed sense of purpose, actively participating in the maintenance and expansion of the scarecrow village, thus fostering a vibrant and connected community.
Nagoro Doll Village in Media
The transformation of Nagoro from a quiet village to a bustling tourist attraction has not gone unnoticed by the media. Renowned documentary filmmaker Fritz Schumann captured the essence of Nagoro in his film, shedding light on Tsukimi Ayano’s initiative and the village’s journey to revitalization.
The media attention has helped put Nagoro on the map, attracting visitors and encouraging other Japanese towns to adopt similar initiatives to revive their communities.
In the secluded corners of Iya Valley, the village of Nagoro blossoms as a sanctuary of memory and artistry, symbolizing resilience and community collaboration. Tsukimi Ayano, through her innovative scarecrow initiative, has resuscitated the dwindling pulse of the village, weaving a vivid tapestry of narratives that bridge the past and the present.
This unique endeavor showcases the power of creativity in revitalizing rural spaces, fostering a sense of unity and renewed vibrancy. Nagoro now stands as a beacon, illustrating that with imagination and community spirit, even fading locales can narrate a vibrant, unfolding story.