Ayano Tsukimi, age 64, is one of just 37 people still living in Nagoro, a village in the Iya Valley of Shikoku in Japan. When Tsukimi was young, her rural village population was in the hundreds, but as elders passed away and youngsters relocated to the cities, Nagoro shrank in size.
Tsukimi won’t let her village languish and forget its former inhabitants, though. Every time someone moves or dies, she sews a life-sized doll in that person’s likeness and places it in a part of Nagoro that was important to the person. The town is now filled with 350 of Tsukimi’s creations–posed tilling the fields, waiting at bus stations, sitting in the crooks of trees with hunting rifles.
The Valley of Dolls, a beautiful short documentary by photographer Fritz Schumann, paints a portrait of Tsukimi and her sewn progeny. “When I make dolls of dead people, I think about them when they were alive and healthy,” Tsukimi says. “The dolls are like my children.” She is married and has a child, but her husband and daughter currently live in Osaka. She lives with her 83-year-old father, who was the inspiration for the very first doll she made, 10 years ago and placed in her yard.