People deal with death in different ways. Some prefer a traditional burial, others like to burn their relatives and put their charred remains in a decorative urn on the mantelpiece. In Nagoro, Japan, every person who dies there gets a life-sized doll made of them which is placed somewhere within the village where the deceased might have been. It's quite nice in a horrifically creepy kind of way.
Most of the inhabitants of the tiny village left a long time ago in search of employment, whilst many just died. When Tsukimi Ayano returned home, she faced a lifetime of loneliness. To fill the void, she began populating the village with dolls. Each would represent someone that she used to know. There's even a teacher in the old school, complete with dozens of deceased students patiently waiting for the class to begin.
The bell hasn't rang in this school for a long time Credit: Fritz Schumann
The idea came when Tsukimi was working alone in her garden. Reminiscing about the times she shared with her late father she began to collect straw and created a doll in his memory. She then continued to make the rest of her family. 15 years later, her work continues, with over 350 dolls taking residence in Nagoro so far. In fact, there are more dolls there now than residents.
Nothing creepy about this scene Credit: Fritz Schumann
She places each doll in a place that would epitomise that person. Some are working the field, others are fishing by the river, some are simply sitting by the roadside waiting for anyone who happens to come across their forgotten village.
In a documentary about the Valley of Dolls, Tsukimi revealed that she had made a doll in the image of herself. She says: "It's taking a nap now," which makes you wonder whether it's just waiting for Tsukimi herself to leave the village for good before it finally opens its eyes.
Tsukimi's doll isn't ready to wake up, yet. Credit: Fritz Schumann/The Verge
Whether the dolls are creepy or nice is up for debate, all I know is that I wouldn't be caught dead there.
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