In 1927, each school child in Japan contributed one sen (about half a cent) toward the creation of 58 exquisite dolls. These Ambassadors of Friendship -- soon called Friendship Dolls -- were thank you gifts for the several thousand blue-eyed baby dolls sent to the children of Japan by American school children the prior year. The doll exchange was the brainchild of Dr. Sidney Gulick, a missionary to Japan, who longed more than anything for the two countries he so loved to be friends. He thought that such a friendship could best be built by starting with the hearts of children.
Sadly, his plan did not bring about the positive relationships he dreamed of. At least, not right away. Over the years, some of the dolls have been lost or destroyed. But the spirit of friendship exemplified by these dolls has caught the hearts of many (including me, which is why I ended up writing about them in The Friendship Doll) who have spent time and resources trying to find the dozen or so still-missing dolls.
I was so tickled when an intrepid librarian in Minnesota finished reading my book and realized that the library in her town had been given a Friendship Doll way back when. She poked around in the basement of the old library and soon found a trunk containing Miss Miyazaki. Sadly, she had not been stored properly and her gofun face -- made of ground oyster shells -- was severely damaged. Repairs are quite costly, partly because of the materials and partly because they must be undertaken in Japan.
This is Masuru Aoki who works for the Yoshitoku Doll Company in Tokyo; he is the individual who oversees the restoration of the Friendship Dolls. My friend Alan Scott Pate (this country's leading expert on the Friendship Dolls) recently visited Aoki-san and kindly presented him with a copy of my book. In the background, you can see there are other hina-ningyo, ceremonial dolls, in preparation for Girls Day.
I love thinking that dolls that were lovingly created so long ago are still cared for today. And I love visualizing Aoki-san's hands as representations of the hands of those craftsmen who, 90 years ago, first made those dolls who were sent on such a hopeful mission.