Send a Tweet
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 30 Share on Twitter 2 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
Exclusive to OpEdNews:
Life Arts    H4'ed 12/24/17

How Citizen Peace Ambassador Gifts Transcended Time & Space

By       (Page 3 of 5 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page. (View How Many People Read This)   4 comments, 6 series
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Meryl Ann Butler
Become a Fan
  (84 fans)

When the president of that doll club heard about a convention to be held in 1997 by J.A.D.E. (Japanese-Asian Doll Enthusiasts) celebrating the 70th anniversary of an exchange project, she suspected a connection to Mary Louise's treasures. Mary Louise called the contact person, explaining that she had sent a Friendship Doll to Japan in 1927, and wondered if this was somehow related to their conference.


"Hello? Are you there?"

"Yes, yes," the woman, Peg, exclaimed, "I can hardly believe this! None of us has actually met anyone who sent one of those dolls over to Japan. This is incredible! Our conference focuses on the Torei Ningyo, which means 'return dolls.' They are the reciprocal Friendship Dolls sent to the U.S. from Japan."

Mary Louise hadn't even known about them.

(Detail) Miss Tokushima, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA
(Detail) Miss Tokushima, Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture, Spokane, WA
(Image by Alan Scott Pate)
  Details   DMCA

Peg continued, "In the 1920's, in response to the United State's termination of Japanese immigration, Dr. Sidney Gulick, a former missionary to Japan, developed what he called a 'quiet educational campaign.' He organized an initiative in which 12,739 'blue-eyed dolls,' like yours, traveled by steamship to Japan with their trunks of handsewn travel clothes, 'passports' and handwritten letters of introduction. It was an amazing, grass-roots friendship gesture. Many churches were involved, and nearly every school in Japan received a doll.

"In response, more than two million Japanese schoolchildren contributed a half penny each to support the creation of the 58 'return dolls,' one from each of the main geographical areas of Japan. Each of these magnificent dolls was 32 inches tall with human hair and a kimono made of the finest silk. Artisans created them with exquisite craftsmanship. In Japan, dollmaking is a revered craft, over 1000 years old. They believe that these dolls are more than toys, and that they are invested with a soul at the time that they are given eyes -- therefore they are truly ambassadors.

Miss Nara, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise, ID
Miss Nara, Idaho State Historical Society, Boise, ID
(Image by Alan Scott Pate)
  Details   DMCA

"When the dolls arrived they visited with Americans at receptions in over 450 cities before being placed in museums. Of the original 58, 39 have been located so far, and our doll group is still searching for the rest. Even though these 'return dolls' are the main subject of our conference, they were given to the U.S. in response to the gift of American dolls like the one that you sent."

When Peg told the other event co-ordinators about the phone call, they begged Mary Louise to attend the conference as a presenter.

At the event Mary Louise shared her experiences with an excited audience. Then Yu Kano, who was producing a Japanese television documentary about the project, invited Mary Louise and her husband to Japan so she could be interviewed there for the show. He even managed to locate the school that had received Mary Louise's doll 70 years earlier.

"What an exciting trip!" Mary Louise said. "When we visited the school I met five alumni who were there when my doll arrived. When I shared the contents of my treasure box with them, an 82-year-old gentleman stared at one of the drawings with tears in his eyes. He had drawn it when he was in eighth grade. They identified the names on the other drawings and letters, reminiscing about their childhood friends. And an elderly woman excitedly recognized one of the letters as the one she had written so long ago."

'Blue Eyed Doll' by Madame Hendron, circa 1926, Alan Scott Pate Collection
'Blue Eyed Doll' by Madame Hendron, circa 1926, Alan Scott Pate Collection
(Image by Alan Scott Pate)
  Details   DMCA

The doll Mary Louise had sent to the school was missing, as are most of the "blue eyed dolls," destroyed during World War II. But a few dolls escaped-- a neighboring school had just rediscovered their Friendship Doll during reorganization of their warehouse. Fifty years earlier it had been carefully wrapped and hidden.

Mary Louise noted, "The school still had a photo of the doll that I had sent. I stared hard at the little bonnet and jacket. My mother had surely sewn them, and somehow the care that the school had given this aged photo helped me feel a special connection to her."

Mary Louise mused, "It is such marvelous serendipity that my box of treasures, forgotten for so many decades, could miraculously surface and be the link in so many lives! It's the people-to-people gestures that change the world, and I'm so grateful for my opportunity to participate in this extraordinary exchange -- it has enriched my life in so many extraordinary ways."

These dolls, with their souls shining through their eyes, continue their ambassadorship, even now. After the devastating 2011 earthquake and tsunami in Japan, the Milwaukee Public Museum exhibited its Friendship Doll, Miss Ibaraki, for the first time since 2008. The Ibaraki prefecture was one of the areas most devastated, and Miss Ibaraki was displayed alongside a collection station, where visitors could make donations toward relief work.

Next Page  1  |  2  |  3  |  4  |  5


Touching 3   Inspiring 3   Well Said 1  
Rate It | View Ratings

Meryl Ann Butler Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

Meryl Ann Butler is an artist, author, educator and OpedNews Managing Editor who has been actively engaged in utilizing the arts as stepping-stones toward joy-filled wellbeing since she was a hippie. She began writing for OpEdNews in Feb, 2004. She became a Senior Editor in August 2012 and Managing Editor in January, (more...)

Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines
Contact AuthorContact Author Contact EditorContact Editor Author PageView Authors' Articles
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEdNews Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Other Series: View All 13 Articles in "Peace & Nonviolence"

Other Series: View All 18 Articles in "Quilting and Fiber Arts"

Other Series: View All 8 Articles in "Solutions Activism"

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

The Bizarre Theft of Dr. Stanislaw Burzynski's Miracle Cancer Cure

Mysterious Bayou Sinkhole Continues to Cave In: Radiation, Hydrocarbons Detected

Relentless Bayou Corne Sinkhole Nearly 30 Times Original Size (UPDATED with Cave-In Video)

Sex, Love, and Jesus: A Few Surprises in the Easter Basket

2012: Armageddon or Quantum Leap? Gregg Braden's Answer-Fractal Time

California Fire Update: Station Fire 1:30 pm, Pacific Time 8-28-09

To View Comments or Join the Conversation: