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The Friendship Dolls sent by Japan to America in 1927 were a gift to express the appreciation and thanks of Japanese children for the American dolls sent earlier in that year. The 58 dolls were named after the 47 Japanese prefectures, 6 largest Japanese cities (Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Nagoya, Yokohama, and Kobe), 4 territories held by Japan in 1927 (such as Taiwan and Korea), and Japan itself.
Before and during World War II, most of these beautiful Japanese Friendship Dolls were put away in storage, because many Americans did not want to see objects from the country they were fighting.
In recent years, there has been an intensive search to find the Japanese Friendship Dolls. Several have been located in museum storage rooms, after being forgotten for many years. The locations of 46 Japanese Friendship Dolls have been confirmed, and the search still continues for the missing dolls.
Each Japanese Friendship Doll has a unique history. Read the stories of three of these fascinating dolls by following the links below.
During the last 20 years, many dolls have returned to Japan for restoration. Some dolls had cracks or other damage, and many of the kimonos had become faded after being exposed for many years. When the dolls returned to Japan, many people went to see these pretty ambassadors of friendship.
The giving of Japanese Friendship Dolls to American schoolchildren has not stopped. The Japanese Cultural Center in Spokane, Washington, and Mukogawa Women's University in Hyogo Prefecture coordinate a special Friendship Doll Program. The people of Japan donate dolls, which then are sent to American schools. Since 1993, over 1,000 schools in every state have received Japanese dolls. The following link tells the wonderful story of how the dolls received by one school have contributed to international friendship and understanding.
Photo at top left courtesy of Kagawa
Friendship Doll Association and North Carolina Museum of Natural Sciences
Photo at top right courtesy of Noriko Gordon