Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pretty Porcelain Dolls That Came in Peace A Tale of Unusual Ambassadors from Prewar US and Japan

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Pretty Porcelain Dolls That Came in Peace A Tale of Unusual Ambassadors from Prewar US and Japan

Article excerpt

Look how pretty she is! Miss Toyama was designed to look like a 10-year-old, but she is much older than that. Her kimono (traditional Japanese gown) is pure silk, and her face and hands are covered with a special coating made from ground-up oyster shells that makes her almost glow. Her hair is real, and her eyes are handmade glass. This lovely creation is the work of the Yamada dollmakers, who have made dolls for Japan's emperors for hundreds of years.

Miss Toyama is on a mission of goodwill to the United States that started in 1929. Her story has drama, tragedy, and joy: It's a tale worth hearing.

In 1926, an American missionary named the Rev. Sidney Lewis Gulick began to worry about the fact that the American and Japanese governments were not getting along. Dr. Gulick had spent 25 years in Japan and had learned Japanese. He felt he knew the Japanese people well and wanted to do something to try to prevent a war. He had an idea. He would send some unusual goodwill ambassadors to Japan. He started the Committee on World Friendship Among Children and began collecting dolls from children around the United States. After about a year, the Friendship Doll Project had gathered 12,739 dolls. These blue-eyed dolls (all different kinds) were sent to Japanese schools in time for the annual doll festival called Hina Matsuri that falls each year on Girls Festival, March 3. The dolls were dressed beautifully and each carried a message: "May the United States of America and Japan always stay friends. I am being sent to Japan on a mission of friendship. Please let me join the doll festival." The dolls also carried passports. They said:"This doll is a good citizen of the United States of America. She will obey all the laws and customs of your country. Please take care of her while she is with you." The Japanese children were delighted. In response, they sent 58 handmade dolls to America - to the 48 states plus 10 more to the biggest states. The dolls arrived in time for Christmas and were unusually tall - 32 inches high. They each carried the name of the prefecture (regional district) from which they came and were decked out in traditional 17th-century finery. …

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