There’s a town in Japan where over half the residents are actually life-sized dolls

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

In the tiny town of Nagoro, Japan, 66-year-old Tsukimi Ayano is hard at work creating an incredibly involved arts-and-crafts project.

Propped up around Nagoro are roughly 115 life-sized dolls, each arranged in a different fashion.

Some plough the fields; others wait for the bus. Inside the village schoolhouse, child-sized dolls sit at their desks while a newspaper-stuffed teacher stands at the blackboard.

Ayano’s creation is known as “Scarecrow Village.” Here’s what life is like inside.


In many ways, Nagoro is like a lot of Japanese towns. Its population is aging, and basic services are closing down.

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But there’s a special ingredient no other town has: Ayano — who, since 2002, has been fashioning life-sized scarecrows out of cloth and newspaper. Her first doll paid homage to her late father and was meant to scare off birds.

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But in the decade and a half since, the dolls have transcended their normal use. Now Ayano sets them up all over town in various arrangements.

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“In this village, there are only 35 people,” Ayano told Reuters in 2015. “But there are 150 scarecrows, so it’s multiple times more.”

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Ayano spares no detail, including accessories like eyeglasses and facial hair.

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Not every doll is the picture of health. Ayano admits she’s had to replace many of them over the years. In total she’s made over 350 dolls.

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That includes a doll version of the artist herself.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters

In 2012, Nagoro’s only schoolhouse graduated its final two students before shutting down. But that didn’t stop Ayano.

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She quickly got to work refilling the classroom with student bodies, even if they weren’t exactly full of life.

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Her dedication to the project has turned the town into something of a tourist attraction, Reuters reports. (Two dolls man the entrance to the town.)

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Osamu Suzuki, a 69-year-old resident, says people often commission Ayano to make her next doll in the likeness of a relative or loved one.

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With so many lifelike dolls set up around Nagoro, you couldn’t be blamed for mistaking one for an actual resident.

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Ayano has gone to great lengths to give each doll a unique appearance, using old clothes that were once worn by actual people and a combination of straw and newspaper as the filling.

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Each day, she takes a stroll around the town to greet her creations and see that they haven’t fallen over or gotten too weathered.

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Ayano even uses the dolls to keep her company. Though she may be a senior citizen by most standards, she’s still one of the town’s youngest residents.

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The dolls help preserve a sense of normalcy as most of the younger residents have already flocked to larger cities in search of work and a vibrant social life.

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But the beauty of Scarecrow Village is that if Ayano ever gets lonely, a brand-new neighbor is only a few stitches away.

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Thomas Peter/Reuters