by Bill Gordon

Watauchi Elementary School
Friendship Doll Activities - 2001

Poster on Miss Kinuko Nagano
 
When I visited the Shinano Education Museum on November 17 to see the exhibit of the 23 Blue-eyed Dolls in Nagano Prefecture, I was most impressed by the many items produced by the sixth graders at Watauchi Elementary School in Nagano City. They have been actively involved in numerous activities related to their school's doll Mary, the Blue-eyed Dolls both in Nagano Prefecture and throughout Japan, the Japanese Friendship Doll Miss Nagano, and other topics.

The sixth graders began their Friendship Doll activities in April 2001, when each student was assigned to one of the following six teams:

  • Homecoming for Miss Nagano
  • Research on Dr. Gulick and Japanese-American Relations
  • Repair of Watauchi's Blue-eyed Doll Mary
  • Internet Team to Create Home Page
  • Send Letters to Gather Information on Blue-eyed Dolls in Nagano Prefecture
  • Research by Interviewing People Over 75 Years Old

One team coordinated a signature campaign to gather support for a homecoming visit of Miss Kinuko Nagano, the Japanese Friendship Doll sent to American in 1927 and now at the Historical Society of Delaware. The poster at the Shinano Education Museum reads as follows:
   

Let's Bring Miss Kinuko Nagano to Japan

She is currently in the state of Delaware in the US. It will cost 11 million yen (about $100,000) to bring back Miss Kinuko Nagano. She was sent to America from Nagano 74 years ago. Miss Kinuko Nagano was sent as a thank-you gift for the Blue-eyed Dolls sent from America as messengers of peace.

We are gathering signatures for the homecoming to Japan of Miss Kinuko Nagano, who was sent to America. The children in Nagano Prefecture at that time over 70 years ago each gave one sen (penny) to cover the costs of making Miss Kinuko Nagano. The Blue-eyed Dolls returned home to America once, but Miss Kinuko Nagano has not been in Nagano Prefecture for 74 years. We really want to have Miss Kinuko Nagano return home to Japan.

Since the elderly women in Nagano also want the homecoming of Miss Kinuko Nagano to Japan as soon as possible because they are growing older, we ask for your support of this signature campaign. The number of signatures currently collected is over 2,000.

We ask for your cooperation.

Sixth Graders of Watauchi Elementary School

As of November 12, signatures had already been obtained from 2,577 people, mainly in the area around Watauchi Elementary School but also throughout Nagano Prefecture. I added my name to the list when I visited the Shinano Education Museum on November 17. During my visit on November 19 to Azumi Elementary School in Nagano Prefecture, I was surprised when one of the sixth-grade students there told me that all of the sixth graders at the school had signed the petition sheet that had been sent from Watauchi Elementary School.

Two walls of the doll exhibit room at Shinano Education Museum were covered by many large sheets of paper that summarized the results of the students' research and activities. Several had maps of Japan to show the distribution of Blue-eyed Dolls throughout the different prefectures. The contents of each student display differed, but most had the following structure:

  • Reasons for research

  • Research method

  • Research findings

  • Summary - personal reflections based on what the students learned

2,577 Signatures for
Miss Nagano's Homecoming
(as of November 12, 2001)
 
One team of students interviewed people over 75 years old living in the area around the school. Not only did they ask questions about the Blue-eyed Dolls, they also inquired about their opinions and feelings toward America during World War II and now. Some people indicated America was hated or dreaded during the war, but now they believe the two countries should be good friends, and everyone in the world should cooperate together.

The team to repair the school's doll named Mary was in charge of getting a new dress and wig, since the original ones had become quite worn in the 74 years since the doll arrived at the school in 1927. They solicited ideas from other students for Mary's new dress and wig. A beautiful new dress was made for Mary. In early October the team of students sent letters to two companies to inquire about making a new wig. Both of these companies quickly agreed to work together on making a new wig for Mary so it would be ready for the opening of the exhibit at Shinano Education Museum on November 15.

During 2001, Watauchi Elementary School's sixth-grade students participated in other activities related to Friendship Dolls. In May, the students heard stories from three elderly people who live near the school. In June, Sharon Gulick made a special visit to the school, and the children put together a newspaper about her visit, which was on display at the Shinano Education Museum. Sharon is the great-granddaughter of Dr. Sidney Gulick, who coordinated the sending of almost 13,000 dolls in 1927 from America to Japan. In August, Watauchi received a new Blue-eyed Doll named Paula from Mr. and Mrs. Sidney Gulick, 3d, the parents of Sharon. The school held a special welcome ceremony for the new doll in the following month.

Special Exhibit - Nagano Prefecture's Blue-eyed Dolls
Friendship Visits - November 2001

Page on Watauchi Elementary School's Blue-eyed Doll


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