Japan’s Nagoro Village Faces Declining Birth Rates & The Struggle Is Real

Japan’s countryside villages have shrunk in population because of the nation’s low birth rates and citizens’ migration to cities.

While the government has made an active effort to encourage more parents to have children, Japan’s Nagoro Village has turned to dolls to populate their town.


According to CNA Insider, Tsukimi Ayano – a 69-year old doll creator – fashioned the town’s life-like figurines to commemorate the dead and repopulate the community.


A village full of dolls seems like an unnerving plotline for a horror film, but it’s actually a serious attempt to bring life back to this village.

Dolls replace residents

Eleven years ago, when Tsukimi Ayano returned home, she discovered that the village once brimming with life felt lonely. As young people had moved to the city for employment, their population of 300 residents declined to only 27 people.

To combat the absence of residents, Ayano created her first dolls to resemble her parents and other family members. The hobby continued and she has created more than 350 dolls inspired by residents who died or left the village.


Ayano tells CNA Insider,

Some (of the dolls) resemble people who used to live here or passed away.

Village of dolls

Thanks to Ayano’s efforts, the Japanese village is filled with doll monuments that represent its past residents.


A short stroll reveals dolls lying in forests or hidden among trees, like this ‘child’ in a red sweater and green cap who’s hanging from a wooden fence.


This doll is made to resemble a real-life cyclist from afar, but a closer look reveals he is a mere mannequin.


No more children in the village

Kids who want to play hide and seek might find dolls mischievously creeping up on them instead.


All the children in the village have left so the school has dolls reading books and chatting with other students in a classroom.

village of dolls 3Source

The inns which used to be lively spaces for the community are filled with dolls to represent the adults and elderly who used to discuss gossip and village concerns.

village of dolls 2Source

Declining birth rates in Japan & Singapore

Nagoro’s sparse population is a nationwide consequence of the low birth rate and high life expectancy in Japan.

village of dolls 1Source

CNA Insider reports that Japan’s population will shrink by a third in 2065 — leading to a workforce shortage and possible economic crisis.

The threat of declining birth rates is also an issue that hits close to home in Singapore. A local report on Registration of Births and Deaths 2018 found only 39,039 births were registered in 2018 compared to 2017 — equivalent to a 1.5% decrease.

Both Japan and Singapore have turned to robotics and immigration to solve their population woes, and we have yet to see its impact.

Creative attempt to repopulate the village

The life-like dolls seem haunting once you discover that they’re meant to mimic dead or former residents. However, it’s also a creative yet lonely attempt to repopulate the village.

The lack of residents in Nagoro Village remains to be an issue without a solution anytime soon. It would be sad to see the village become a ghost town so we’re curious to know if Japanese and expats would be willing to relocate to this village of dolls.

What do you think about the dolls of Nagoro Village in Japan? Will you pay them a visit? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image adapted from Google Maps.