Valley of the Dolls

This short video is poignant and haunting. Ayano Tsukimi is a 64 year old woman who grew up in Nagoro, a village on one of the main islands of Japan. She moved away to live with her family in Osaka, but returned 11 years a go and now lives with her elderly father, though her husband and daughter still live in Osaka. Nagoro was once a vibrant town with a dam and a “big company” that employed residents. Today, only 37 people remain in the village – the rest have moved away in search of work. Ayano has populated her village landscape with 350 dolls to represent the townspeople who moved away: construction workers, people waiting for the bus, the school principle and students (the school was closed two years a go as there were only two children enrolled).

There’s so much going on in this story, from the discussion about what the dolls represent (companionship, a comment on social change, loss of community and the perpetual reminder of death), to what remains unsaid. Tsukimi’s work represents the untold story of progress: when big companies who monopolise local resources move away, they take with them people’s main source of income. Ayano says: the dolls “can only live” for 3 years, “the dolls don’t live as long as humans… I don’t think dying is scary. I’ll probably live forever.”