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THE JAPANESE FRIENDSHIP DOLLS OF 1927
ART AS AMBASSADOR

by Alan Scott Pate

Antique Doll Collector
April 2010, Vol 13, No. 3
Courtesy of Alan Scott Pate, Antique Japanese Dolls



"Miss Fukushima," Artist: Koryiisai. Toy & Miniature Museum of Kansas City

Details of kimono and obi

"Miss Okayama," Artist: Koryfisai, North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND Photo Dan Koeck
On a Saturday in late November 1927, the children of San Francisco were treated to a doll spectacular unlike any other. Fifty-eight immaculate and exquisitely rendered ichitimatsu-ningyô created by the finest craftsmen in Japan were on display at the Kinmon Gakuen Japanese cultural center on Bush Street. The dolls, each standing nearly 33 inches in height, were attired in classic Japanese fashion with long sleeved silk kimono executed in a myriad of hues with painted designs featuring, among others, bursting chrysanthemums, flowing streams strewn with maple leaves, thatched pavilions nestled amongst blossoming trees, flying birds with fanned tails, and pine trees capped in snow. Their waists were cinched tight with broad silk brocade obi tie belts of equally brilliantly colored silk. Their faces, framed with shocks of jet-black hair in a bang cut, were of a lightly pigmented gofun (shell white) with inset glass eyes all set in an open and innocent expression, gazing out, expectantly, on the assembled audience. Arrayed on the stage in tiered rows, flanked by the flags of Japan and the United States and banners bearing the Japanese imperial crest, these dolls created an unforgettable display of pageantry and beauty.

Top: "Miss Saitama," Artist: Koryusai. The Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC.
Bottom: "Miss Osaka-fu," Artist: Goyo. Ohio Historical Society, Columbus,OH.
These were the now-famous Japanese Friendship Dolls, diplomatic ambassadors of goodwill in doll form, sent as expressions of hope for friendship and goodwill between the children of Japan and the United States. They arrived on the Japanese steamship, the Tenyo Maru, with first class tickets and passports indicating their individual names corresponding to their region of origin: Miss Saitama, Miss Osaka-fu, Miss Taiwan, Miss Japan, etc. They came representing the imperial family, the six principal cities, forty-seven prefectures, and four Japanese overseas territorial holdings. Accompanying each doll was a lacquer trousseau (dôgu) with chests and sewing kits, makeup stands, and mirrors. Parasols and red lacquered sandals, fans and small purses, along with tea sets, lanterns and folding screens made up the rest of their accoutrement. In addition, stands had been created with engraved brass plaques on the front bearing each doll's name in both English and Japanese. This historic display of all fifty-eight at the Kinmon Gakuen on that November day would prove to be the only time they were ever to be displayed together as a complete group. History would not prove kind.
Trousseau for "Miss Fukushima" Author's Photo

These dolls were not simple gifts, nor were their expressions of desire for friendship insignificant. For a complex set of economic, political, and emotional reasons, the early 20th century saw a steep rise in anti-Japanese sentiment within the United States. Centered in California, this ultimately spilled over into the national debate and resulted in the Immigration Act of 1924 which
Top to bottom:
"Miss Saitama," The Charleston Museum, Charleston, SC.
Detail: "Miss Shizuoka," Author's Photo
"Miss Okayama" Photo Dan Koeck
effectively stopped Japanese immigration to America and severely limited rights of Japanese already living in the United States. In an effort to rehabilitate Japanese-American relations by starting with the children of these two countries, the Rev. Sidney Gulick (1860-1945), working through the Committee on World Friendship Among Children, developed a doll exchange program and in the spring of 1927 sent 12,739 "blue-eyed" dolls from the children of the U.S. to the children of Japan as a "gesture of goodwill and friendship."

Deeply moved by the arrival of these dolls during a time of national mourning for the Taisho Emperor (Yoshihito, 1879-1926), and desiring a way to soften the hard edge of the American political climate, the Japanese developed a "return doll" tôrei-ningyô program. Coordinated by Shibusawa Eiichi (1840- 1931), a wealthy industrialist and long-time associate of Sidney Gulick, the dolls were commissioned through two of the most celebrated doll atelier in Japan. Yoshitoku in Tokyo was responsible for the dolls representing the forty-seven prefectures and four overseas territorial holdings. Maruhei Ôkiheizo in Kyoto was in charge of the dolls representing the six principal cities and the Imperial Household.

Turning to perhaps the best-known ichimatsu-ningyô artisan of the day, Takizawa Yoshitoyo (Koryûsai II, b.1882), Yoshitoku commissioned the creation of a series of molds (kata) for the arms, legs, heads and shoulders that would serve as the base template, establishing a uniform height and overall conformation. From these molds, they then created two hundred wood composite figures. These were distributed to the top doll artisans who, in turn, fine-tuned, sculpted and individualized the faces and hands, added the human hair wigs and painted facial details. From these two hundred figures, the final fortyseven dolls to be supplied by Yoshitoku were selected. These dolls were then outfitted in individualized and especially commissioned kimono and personally dressed by Endo Hatsuko, proprietor of a celebrated "bridal grooming" atelier on the Ginza in Tokyo who was also the official dresser for ladies of the imperial court.

Though more a selection process than an outright "competition," the general feeling was that the most striking of the dolls were created by Hirata Tsuneo (Gôyô II, 1903-1981). His dolls, based on studies made of a neighbor's daughter, were a unique and decidedly modern blend of realism and stylization which subsequently made him a celebrity in the Japanese doll world. All of the Yoshitoku dolls bore a label which read "Tokyo Doll Wholesale Trader's Association" which also carried the name of the artist responsible for the doll.

In recognition of its distinguished position as a longtime supplier of dolls to the imperial family, Maruhei Ôkiheizo was exempted from the above-described selection process. For their part, Maruhei turned to one of the most celebrated doll making lineages in Kyoto, the twelfth-generation Menya Shoho (Mensho XII) to create the six city dolls representing Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Kobe, and Yokohama as well as the doll representing the imperial family, Miss Japan. Basing his interpretation on more traditional mitsuore triplejointed dolls for which Kyoto had long been famous, Mensho created dolls that were of all wood construction and possessed of different joinery and a broader facial physiognomy than the Yoshitoku dolls. While the hands of all the Yoshitoku dolls are depicted flat
"Miss Kyoto-fu", by Hirata Goyo II for Yoshitoku. Boston Children's Museum, Boston, MA, Author's Photo
palmed and open, the right hands of the Maruhei dolls are depicted with thumb and forefinger touching as if holding something in their hands, another nod to traditional Kyoto dolls.

Prior to their departure for the United States the dolls were sent individually to their sponsoring cities and prefectures for sending off parties where songs were sung and well wishes were cast upon the dolls by adoring children and surprisingly moved adults. The exceptionally high cost of the dolls had been partially defrayed by the contribution from nearly 2,610,000 children across the country and they were anxious to see their "representatives" prior to departing. Photos taken of these events help to convey the seriousness with which this endeavor was viewed in Japan. A final official sendoff ceremony presided over by Shibusawa Eiichi was held in Tokyo on November 4th, but only included the display of a portion of the dolls. From there the entire group departed from the port of Yokohama. A farewell song composed in Japanese for the event read in part:
"From this land of the Sun to the Land of the Stars, Today from the door of your home, 0 Dolls, Your black eyes unmoistened with tears, And your eyebrows uplifting set forth .... Now travel far, 0 Dolls, And after crossing ten days of waves, Wherever you go you will find Spring."

Given the political climate, it was fitting that the entire group of fifty-eight dolls arrived in San Francisco. Unfortunately, the trouble for
Archival Photo, Miss Yokohama taken in 1927 at the Mission Inn, Riverside, CA Photo Courtesy of Shirlee Funk.
the Friendship Dolls started as soon as they reached American shores. Photos in such magazines as Everyland show that the dolls were originally shipped from Japan in waist-high wooden crates packed with excelsior. Their arrival in San Francisco was only the first stop of a very long journey. From there, a small group of seventeen, including Miss Japan, traveled overland by train and were exhibited in Chicago, before going on to Washington, DC and then New York City. The remainder of the group traveled by sea through the Panama Canal and on to New York where they were all reunited. At this point they were all provided with individual stout traveling trunks with metal fittings, numbered to correspond with each dolls' ticket number from the overseas journey. From there they began to journey across the country in smaller groups, generally of four to six dolls. In general, only one set of accessories accompanied each "mission." The remainder was held under the stewardship of Morimura Bros, Inc in New York. Ultimately, the Friendship Dolls made over 1,000 appearances in some 479 different cities.

Identification of the dolls was achieved in several ways. The stands bore the names of the original prefectures, cities, or territorial holdings in both English and Japanese etched into a brass plaque on the front. The kimono of each doll bore crests specifically associated with theiroriginal location. The furnishings, as well, bore these crests. They each carried passports with their names and steamship tickets tucked into the sleeves of their kimono. And, finally, the trunks were numbered to correspond with a doll cross-referenced with their shipticket.

Mitsuore gosho-ningyô, 36" High, Edo Period, Circa 1800, Private Collection. Author's Photo.
In all of the excitement surrounding their arrival, in all of the confusion surrounding the packing and unpacking of each doll, and in all of the complications surrounding the logistics of transportation, it is evident that soon after their arrival dolls were being placed on incorrect stands, being replaced in the incorrect trunk, passports were examined and not replaced and, occasionally, kimono were swapped and exchanged. No one, at first, seemed to recognize the importance of the individual identities of the dolls themselves. It was only after their final placement, when letters of thanks and gratitude were being exchanged with the original sponsoring locations in Japan, when comparisons were made with Japanese photos showing the dolls at their original send-off parties, and finally, confusion over the final distribution of accessories held in trust by Morimura Bros in New York, that the full realization of the mix-up began to dawn.

By 1929 the dolls were settled in libraries, museums, and cultural institutions across the country where they continued in varying ways their "duties" as cultural ambassadors. The outbreak of hostilities between the two countries in 1941, however, rendered manifestly inappropriate the public display of Japanese dolls calling for "friendship and goodwill." In Japan, government orders were enacted mandating the destruction of all of the "blue-eyed" dolls originally sent in 1927, calling them: "Friendship dolls with a mask!" Public pyres were set up for the burning of these little dolls, accompanied by the requisite anti-American chants and demonstrations of national pride. It was only through the courage and extraordinary personal risks taken by individuals who hid some of these dolls from the Japanese government that any of these earlier dolls survived. At present 323 of the "blue-eyed" dolls have been rediscovered. Meanwhile in America, all of the dolls (with the sole exception of Miss Kagawa in Raleigh, NC) were removed from their respective displays and placed into storage. As years passed, some of the dolls were re-instated to their former positions, others wereforgotten entirely. Some were lost or misplaced as museums closed, new buildings were built, or merged with other collections. In hard economic times, some were sold at auction. One, Miss Ehime, was destroyed when a hurricane swept through her home in Gulfport, MS in 1969. As of today, only forty-five of
Archival Photo, Reception Party, Mission Inn, Riverside CA, 1927, Photo Courtesy of Shirlee Funk
the original fifty-eight have been relocated. Of these some twenty-five have historically been misidentified. And only five are mated with their original accessories.

Archival Photo, Original "Miss Tottori" at Send-off Party, 1927, Tottori City. Courtesy of Museum of the South Dakota State Historical Society
After years of neglect and seeming indifference, a movement has been steadily growing since the late 1970's to relocate all of the fifty-eight original dolls. Exhibitions held in Japan have encouraged the temporary return of some of the dolls for welcome-home parties. Usually, this has occasioned the restoration and repair of those dolls which have suffered during their 80 plus years here in America. Researchers such as Rosie Skiles, Keiko Wakabayashi, and Michiko Takaoka have been tireless in their visitations and research regarding the dolls' locations and identities. Using archival images in Japan, Michiko Takaoka has been able to correctly re-identify many of the dolls by matching crest and kimono patterns. New research is also underway by Keiko Tanaka of the University Art Museum of Tokyo University of the Arts. A brilliant website is in place (http://wgordan.web. wesleyan.edu / dolls/ japanese) set up by Bill Gordan to keep track of the dolls and ongoing developments.


When interest first began in the late 1970's, the locations of only twenty-five of the dolls could be ascertained. Since that time, twenty more dolls have been located. One of the dolls resurfaced in auction in 2009, and she is now in a private collection. Although efforts are currently underway to determine her identity, for now, she is affectionately known as "Miss #45!" Yet twelve of the original fifty-eight still remain missing. Where are they now?

Do you have a Friendship Doll?










Keiko Tanaka inspecting "Miss Osaka-fu," Photo Courtesy of the Ohio Historical Society, Columbus, 011

Alan Scott Pate is a researcher on the history of Antique Japanese dolls known as ningyô and author of two books on the subject: Ningyô: The Art of the Japanese Doll (Tuttle Publishing, 2005) and Japanese Dolls: The Fascinating World of Ningyô (Tuttle, 2007). Alan Pate is also the proprietor of Alan Scott Pate Antique JLlpanese Dolls based in St. Ignatius, MT. Comments can be sent to info@antiquejapanesedolls.com.

References
Sidney Gulick, Dolls of Friendship. Friendship Press, New York, Takaoka Michiko, Ningyô Taishi (Doll Amassadors), Tokyo, Nikkei BP-Sha, 2004
Jeannette Emric, "World Friendship for Boys and Girs: To Land of Stars from Land of Sun", Everyland, February 1928


The author, Alan Scott Pate, is the owner of Antique Japanese Dolls in St.Ignatius, Montana, USA,
Tel +1 (406) 745-7400
E-mail: info@antiquejapanesedolls.com

He received an M. A. in Korean history and language from Harvard University.


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