by Bill Gordon

Tina - New Blue-eyed Doll
at Ohdono Elementary School

Tina at front entrance of school
 

In 1927, Ohdono Elementary School received from America a very special gift, a Blue-eyed Doll named Rosemary. This doll survived World War II, when Japan and America fought each other as bitter enemies. The school now proudly displays the doll in a special case at the front entrance. After 75 years alone at Ohdono Elementary, Rosemary now has a younger sister named Tina. On October 18, 2002, a new doll with brown eyes and hair was presented to Ohdono's 600 students in a special ceremony in the school's gymnasium.

Tina is a Friendship Doll given by Sidney Gulick, 3d, and his wife Frances, both professors of mathematics at the University of Maryland. The grandfather of Mr. Gulick, 3d, thought of the idea to have American children send dolls to Japan in order to improve relations between the two countries. About 2.6 million Americans participated in this program to send Friendship Dolls to Japan, and over 12,000 dolls arrived in Japan in early 1927. Mr. Gulick, 3d, revived his grandfather's idea of exchanging Friendship Dolls, and he and his wife have sent about 170 dolls over the past 15 years to Japanese elementary schools and kindergartens. 

 
With Principal Tanaka (left) and Mrs. Saito (right)


Kiyoko Saito (right) at 1927 welcome ceremony
 
 
A very special guest attended the doll presentation ceremony on the morning of October 18. Kiyoko Saito was a 4th-grade student at Ohdono Elementary School in 1927, the year that 200 American Blue-eyed Dolls arrived in Yamaguchi Prefecture. Mrs. Saito was selected as the student representative to receive the American dolls at a welcome ceremony in the Prefectural capital, Yamaguchi City. Before the presentation ceremony for the new doll Tina, I had a pleasant talk in the principal's office with Mrs. Saito about her memories of the 1927 event. She still remembers how impressive it was to see all 200 dolls lined up at the welcome ceremony. "When I saw the dolls, I had a feeling like foreigners were there." Several newspaper reporters in the principal's office repeatedly asked Mrs. Saito about her impressions of the dolls' arrival, but most of the details had faded from her memory since 75 years have passed since she was a 10-year-old girl who served as the student representative at the ceremony. Everyone marveled at two photos that clearly showed Mrs. Saito as a young girl at the ceremony.

The presentation ceremony started with a talk by the principal Atsuo Tanaka, who used slides to explain the long history of the Friendship Dolls. Ohdono's doll Rosemary is very special because only four dolls remain in Yamaguchi Prefecture, with the rest being destroyed and lost during World War II. The children were amazed to see the slide of Mrs. Saito as a 4th-grade student, and the principal asked Mrs. Saito several questions about the 1927 welcome ceremony for the Yamaguchi Friendship Dolls.

Next I gave a short talk to encourage the students to make friends with people from around the world. Then I read a Japanese translation of the following letter from Sidney Gulick, 3d:

 
Speaking at welcome ceremony
for new doll Tina (far right)
 
 
June 26, 2002

Dear friends at Ohdono Shogakko,

About seventy-five years ago my grandfather, Sidney L. Gulick, inaugurated a doll mission in which American children sent over 12,000 friendship dolls to children in Japan. In return, Japan sent a special collection of gorgeous ambassador dolls to the United States. Both sets of dolls were sent in order to help the children of the two countries better understand and appreciate each other.

Now we are happy to send to Ohdono Shogakko a new friendship doll. We present her in the same spirit that the dolls were sent across the Pacific Ocean seventy-five years ago, through the World Friendship Among Children in the United States and Japan, and with the help of our friends, Bill Gordon and his family.

The name of the new friendship doll is Tina, which is a common American girl's name. In addition to Tina herself, my wife Mrs. Gulick has prepared another outfit, a nightgown, and traveling bag made especially for Tina. She is also accompanied by a passport with information about her. We hope that you will feel kind thoughts when you see her.

We send to you and your families our best wishes for good and peaceful year, and please enjoy Tina.

Sayonara,

Sidney L. Gulick, 3d

 
Handing doll to Shuhei Nomura
 
 
A 4th-grade boy, Shuhei Nomura, served as student representative to receive from me the new doll Tina, along with the sports bag and other accessories made by Mrs. Gulick. Two other 4th-grade students then presented me with a bouquet of flowers and two lacquered Ouchi dolls. These oval-shaped dolls are one of Yamaguchi's special products, and they now sit on top of my CD player to remind me of my enjoyable visit to Ohdono Elementary School.

During the morning I spoke with Hirofumi Tanaka, who works at the Yamaguchi Prefectural Board of Education. He knows a great deal about the history of the Friendship Dolls, especially those in Yamaguchi Prefecture. I was surprised to learn that one doll from 1927 has been lost when it was sent to the U.S. for a special exhibition several years ago. He presented me with a short book about the history of one of the Friendship Dolls in Yamaguchi Prefecture. This book has the two photos of Mrs. Saito at the 1927 welcome ceremony for the 200 dolls sent to Yamaguchi Prefecture.

I was surprised at the number of newspaper and television reporters who came to the morning presentation ceremony. It was a challenge for them as they tried to get Mrs. Saito to answer questions about events from 75 years ago. In the early evening I went with the principal to a small restaurant near the school, and we watched on TV a news segment about the morning ceremony. Later I received articles about the event from four different newspapers, and they each had a nice photo of the new doll Tina being held by the 4th-grade boy who served as the student representative.

 
Principal asking Mrs. Saito about the welcome ceremony in 1927
 
 
Tina brought with her the following "United States of America Passport":

     Name:  Tina
     Eyes (color):  brown
     Hair (color):  brown
     Date of birth:  May 5, 1994
     Place of birth:  Adelphi, Maryland, USA
     Date of issue:  June 15, 2002
     Date of expiration:  Never
     Passport number:  1605052002
     Signature of parent:  Frances Gulick

The passport also included a cute photograph of Tina. As I was getting ready to leave the school, two women approached me with very sad looks on their faces. They showed me a wrinkled passport. These two women had been trying to enclose the passport in plastic in order to preserve it, but apparently it got caught in the machine. They had smiles on their faces when I assured them that Mr. Gulick, 3d, could reissue the passport if they could supply a photo of Tina that was the same size as the original one.

My second visit to Ohdono Elementary School turned out to be quite a memorable event. As I was leaving the school, Rosemary and Tina stood next to each other as sister dolls to say goodbye to me. The two dolls now greet students and teachers each day at the entrance of the school.

Special thanks to Nobuhiro Furuya, 6th-grade teacher,
who organized the presentation ceremony for Tina.

Return to American Blue-eyed Dolls - New Dolls

Friendship Visits - October 2002

Japanese newspaper article on presentation

Rosemary - Blue-eyed Doll from 1927 at Ohdono Elementary School

Friendship Visits to Ohdono Elementary School
  - November 2001
  - October 2002


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