This Island Has More Dolls Than People Living In It

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An island village in Japan truly thought out of the box in order to replace its dwindling population, choosing to replace dead citizens with dolls.

The small village of Nagoro on the island of Shikoku has become almost completely deserted, with only 35 residents currently living there, National Geographic reported. Japanese artist Tsukimi Ayano, 67, took matters into her own hands by replacing deceased or displaced residents with dolls.

Ayano said she first caught a vision when she wanted to create a scarecrow modeled after her deceased father.

“They would sometimes say, ‘Good morning, you’re up working very early.’ It just started up a conversation between the scarecrow and the neighbors,” Ayano said, recalling what prompted her to expand her doll collection, according to NPR.

Having seen the increased interaction between the scarecrow and her neighbors, Ayano decided to begin creating more dolls modeled after deceased citizens and those that had left the village.

“When I make dolls of dead people I think about them when they were alive and healthy. The dolls are like my children,” Ayano told filmmaker Fritz Schumann in the documentary “Valley of the Dolls.”

Many of the village’s young people have left the island to find work in Tokyo and Osaka; thus, Ayano created many schools with filled with childlike dolls to “replace” the young population.


Japan has a rapidly declining birthrate, falling 3 percent from the previous year to 981,202 as of Jan. 1, Business Insider reported. The population is also aging rapidly, as 27 percent of the population is currently 65 and older, and only 12 percent of the population is 14 years or younger.

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