Article from The Providence Journal-Bulletin, March 23, 1998.
by Bob Hunter and Noriko Gordon
 

Where are Misses Kobe and Nagano?


The Doll Festival (hina matsuri) is held on March 3 throughout Japan. On this day, young girls display their collections of dolls on specially decorated steps. Their collections will usually have the Emperor and Empress at the top, with the other dolls arranged below them. This is also the day when they will receive new dolls from their families. Unlike in the United States, in Japan dolls are not considered toys. These dolls are sometimes viewed as members of the family, as they are handed down from generation to generation along with the family history. 

In the 1920s, as the relationship between Japan and the United States was deteriorating, a long-time missionary to Japan, Sidney Gulick, organized a doll exchange between the children of Japan and the children of the United States. With the program, he hoped that friendships could be formed between the children before they formed prejudices, and the long-term outlook for peace between our countries would be better. Several thousand dolls were collected and sent to Japan. The Japanese children responded by collecting enough money to send 58 large dolls to America. Each state was to receive one doll and several cities would receive a doll.

The "Friendship Dolls" arrived in the United States in 1927. They then made a tour of the United States before they were sent to their new homes. Miss Chosen (Miss Korea) was given to the Children's Museum of Hartford. Miss Kobe was given to the children of Stamford, Connecticut. Miss Nagano was sent to the Roger Williams Park Museum in Providence, Rhode Island. Of course, with the beginning of World War II, these dolls were soon forgotten.

The doll-exchange program is still remembered in Japan. Many school children still learn the song, "A Blue-eyed Doll," written especially for this exchange program.

In the late '70s, interest in the dolls was renewed in United States. Several groups have been searching for the dolls. Recently, Michiko Takaoka, Director of the Japanese Culture Center of the Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute, in Spokane, Washington, informed us that it has found 40 of the dolls, and 18 dolls were still missing. The two dolls given to Connecticut and the doll given to Rhode Island were still missing.

Leda Frank, of Bristol, Conn., remembered that when she was a young schoolgirl she had seen Miss Chosen at the Children's Museum in Hartford. She later took her children to see Miss Chosen at The Science Center of Connecticut [name changed back to The Children's Museum in 2006], in West Hartford. Happily, we learned that Miss Chosen is still there, although she is no longer on display.

Now, with the Olympics, we know where Nagano, Japan, is located. But where is Miss Nagano? Where is Miss Kobe? If anyone recalls having seen either of these dolls over the years, or has any memories of the doll program, we would like to hear from them.

You can contact Robert Hunter at (860) 583-3680, e-mail: rhunter@snet.net
or Noriko Gordon at (860) 635-5635, e-mail: Nokogordon@aol.com

Miss Kobe Page


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