Inside the creepy ‘valley of dolls’ where scarecrows have replaced humans

Japan will re-open for tourists by lowering Covid-19 restrictions tomorrow which means many Brits are looking to book their holidays.

But, while you might usually think of the bright lights of Tokyo, the food of Osaka or Takayama traditional town there’s another side to the country – and it’s perfect for giving yourself the chills this Halloween.

READ MORE: Tripadvisor reveals UK's most terrifying Halloween experiences to try this spooky season

Head to the village of Nagoro, Japan, and you'll spot plenty of the residents watching the traffic go by, working in fields or heading to the shops.

The village may appear to be busy, but these residents aren't alive; they're scarecrows.

Known as the “Cursed Village” the village is filled with 350 life-size scarecrows, which you might mistake for real people.

They even outnumber their fellow human residents by ten to one.

The scarecrows aren't intended to be creepy – but there's no denying that there is something a little unsettling about a whole town filled with giant life-size dolls!

You’ll get an “uncanny valley” feeling as you spot the “residents” throughout the village.

There are classrooms filled with fake teachers and children in the local school.

Scarecrows gather around the bus stops or on the front porches of the buildings, and “farmers” work in the fields.

Other highlights include dolls dancing together at a party, as well as workmen wearing hard hats taking a short break and enjoying some fresh air outside of an abandoned house.

Crafter Tsukimi Ayano, known as the "Scarecrow Mother”, is behind the weird and wonderful creations.

Tsukimi was born in Nagoro but moved away, eventually returning in 2002.

Upon her return, she found that most residents had left to work in the city, and the population number continued to dwindle as older residents passed away. (In 2019 it was estimated that there were less than 30 people still in the village).

To make the town feel busier, Tsukimi began creating life-size dolls of the residents to populate the streets and surrounding countryside.

For example, the elementary school closed its doors, but today you'll still find its classrooms filled with students and teachers in lessons.

She also created some dolls in tribute to deceased residents.

Every autumn, the village hosts a Scarecrow Festival complete with a photo competition (the winner receives their own scarecrow), as well as scarecrow-making workshops.

It's not the easiest destination to reach, as the village boasts a remote location in the Iya Valley in the Tokushima Prefecture, but that hasn't deterred visitors.

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Although it wasn't initially intended to be a tourist destination, in recent years the village has become a hit with international visitors who make the trek to see the dolls.

The village has also featured on TV, including 2014 documentary Valley of the Dolls, as well as an appearance during an episode of James May's travel series Our Man in Japan.

Always check the current restrictions around travel and ensure you have the correct documents before flying.

You can look up the rules for UK tourists on the website.


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