Hidden within the remote valleys of Shikoku, Japan, the small village of Nagoro seems to be drawing its final breaths. Given it’s far and hardly accessible, it is unlikely it will thrive and grow beyond the boundaries that constrain it today. Most of its residents have either moved out by now, looking for bigger opportunities, or passed away.
When artist Ayano Tsukimi returned to her beloved childhood village and saw with sorrow the gloomy fate of what probably was once a lively community, she took it upon herself to immortalize, one way or another, its living spirit of days past. After creating a scarecrow molded on the image of her father to put in her garden, she suddenly realized what she had to do. It was perfect. She would create a similar real-sized cloth doll for every former resident of Nagoro to symbolically fill the void left behind when they departed.
Little by little, Tsukimi has filled the place with her lifeless models. There they stand, as if frozen in time, seemingly in the middle of an ordinary activity living their mundane lives. Fishermen lying by the river waiting for a catch, children sitting in a classroom forever attending to their lessons, couples holding their hands in eternal union.
Nagoro might be a difficult place to visit—it’s certainly not a trip to the store! But that doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy the wonderful work Tsukimi has created. You can always visit Google Maps and go to Street View, for example, to see those wonderful cotton-faced figures who are just idly standing by the side of the road. Or you can just take a look at the photographs in this article. But if you do manage to ever travel there in person, you’re bound to explore a desolated and fascinating scene the likes of which you’ll find nowhere else.
This constructed world has much room for honest exploration. Nostalgia and creativity play an important role in any artistic creation, and you are unlikely to find a better example of their perfect combination than in Nagoro. It’s hard not appreciate what Tsukimi has built, and even harder to feel nothing about its meaning. It is beautiful and melancholic at the same time; heartwarming and creepy all at once.
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