Doll returns for goodwill mission
Miss Toyama believed lost for 52 years
"We're really excited," said Laurie Risch, executive director of the Behringer-Crawford Museum. "We can't wait to see her."
Miss Toyama arrives in Covington on Wednesday. A reception in her honor is planned for later this month.
A real doll - really - Miss Toyama spent three years in Tokyo preparing for her return. Her sleek black hair retains the shine of youth. She's had a make over, touching up her soft, rosy complexion.
The red silk kimono of her native Japan forms a startling backdrop for the yellow, gold, blue and green flowers woven into the fabric.
Miss Toyama's re-appearance illustrates the keen interest in the economic impact she represents.
According to the state Economic Development Cabinet, Japanese interests own 102 companies in Kentucky, with an investment of $6.5 billion.
In 1996, Kentucky exported $689 million in goods and services to Japan.
And with the expansion of companies like Toyota, Kentucky is seeing an increase in residents from Japan, now at nearly 2,500.
Her tour is just beginning, but Miss Toyama has already won rousing support from dozens of American and Japanese companies.
"It's such a great story," said Helen Donaldson, Toyota spokeswoman. The carmaker's Georgetown, Ky., plant will host Miss Toyama at the end of the year. "There's a lot of goodwill here. She's still continuing her mission."
This is Miss Toyama's story: The 32-inch tall doll was an original member of the "Doll Messengers of Goodwill" project started by Dr. Sydney Gulick in the late 1920s. A missionary in Japan for more than 25 years, Dr. Gulick was concerned about tensions between the United States and Japan.
"We who desire peace must write it in the hearts of children," Dr. Gulick said.
He worked with the United Federation of Churches in America to collect 12,739 dolls from American children to send to Japanese children as a peace offering.
The Japanese reciprocated; 2.6 million children contributed one yen pennies to create 58 dolls. A doll was made for each U.S. state, 48 at the time, plus 10 extras for the largest states.
Dolls were named after the Japanese regions they were sponsored by. Miss Toyama came from Toyama, on the Sea of Japan.
She arrived with a passport, ambassadorial credentials and accessories, including a parasol, two pairs of sandals, a purse, a folding fan, a silk kimono and undergarment, obi and obijime belts and a decorative cloth of obiage.
After a stay at the Henderson Settlement School, Miss Toyama took up residence at the J.B. Speed Art Museum in Louisville.
Then tragedy struck. Miss Toyama was believed lost in the flood of 1937. It would be 52 years until she was found, tucked away in the museum's basement.
"Her story is very poetic," said Penny Peavler, Speed spokeswoman. "The purpose of the tour is to have her resume her role as an ambassador of the global friendship between our two nations."
She was found at the same time Kentucky-based Universal Fasteners Inc., was looking for a project to celebrate its 100th birthday in 1995. The Japanese maker of shank buttons, burrs, rivets and hooks wanted a project to benefit employees and its host state.
Universal Fasteners president Mark Mizumoto was an active member of the Japan America Society of Kentucky. His company is part of the YKK group, based in Toyama. The president of YKK was chairman of the Japan American Society in Toyama.
Both companies decided the conservation of Miss Toyama and her accessories would be their gift to Kentucky. She was sent to the Yoshitoku Co. of Tokyo. That company's president is the son of the man who crafted Miss Toyama and the other good will dolls.
Floodwaters and years of neglect left Miss Toyama with injured feet, legs, hands, arms and head. Some limbs were crumbly.
Getting Miss Toyama in shape took three years and tens of thousands of dollars. Now she looks as good as the day she arrived.
"It's very gratifying to see Miss Toyama resume her role . . . nearly 70 years after arriving on Kentucky soil," said Michael Cronan, director of the state's Japan-America Society.
Miss Toyama will be at the Behringer-Crawford Museum through Sept. 15. She'll then travel Kentucky, with stops in Frankfort, Ashland, Lexington, Georgetown and Harrodsburg.
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