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Japanese Friendship Dolls
Finding Dolls

Bob Hunter with Miss Chosen, found in 1998 at a museum in West Hartford, Connecticut

 

During World War II, many museums took down the Japanese Friendship Dolls from display and stored them away, since no Americans wanted to see these gifts from the enemy they were fighting.  In the decades after the end of the war, most of the 58 Dolls seem to have been forgotten, misplaced, or sold.

Rosie Skiles, one of the leaders of the former J.A.D.E. (Japanese Asian Doll Enthusiasts) group, has been very active for several years searching for missing Japanese Friendship Dolls. Her tireless efforts have led to the finding of four dolls: Miss Yokohama, Miss Kagoshima, Miss Fukushima, and Miss Shimane. She is also working together with the National Science Museum in Tokyo to unravel the mix-ups in the names of some of the 58 Japanese Friendship Dolls.

Several of the dolls have fascinating stories about how they were located many years after they had been forgotten. Miss Toyama was presumed drowned in 1937 when the Ohio River flooded into the storage areas of the museum where the doll was kept. In 1992, a museum employee happened to see a trunk in the museum basement. "Battered and watermarked, the trunk nevertheless looked familiar and, sure enough, inside lay poor Miss Toyama: feet dangling unconnected to her legs, fingers crumbly, hair tangled with 50-year river muck." Miss Toyama was returned to Japan for restoration, and today she continues her role as friendship ambassador.

Miss Chosen is another example of a Japanese Friendship Doll that a museum did not even realize was in storage. Bob Hunter became interested in trying to find Miss Chosen when he found out that the doll originally came to a museum in the state where he lives. He mentioned the story to several of his friends, and a 77-year-old woman remembered taking her children to see the doll several decades before. After calls from Bob Hunter to the museum, Miss Chosen was found in a large cardboard box in the museum's storeroom.

Today, 46 of the 58 Japanese Friendship Dolls have been located. The location of Number 45 was confirmed in 2009 and Number 46 in 2010. The search continues for the missing dolls! If you have any information on the missing Japanese Friendship Dolls, please contact Rosie Skiles at RSkiles718@aol.com.


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