By Michiko Takaoka
Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival celebrated
    at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute on March 3, 2000
Article from Cultural Center News
March and April 2000

The Friendship Doll Program:
The Experience


It is my sincere pleasure to greet Mr. Rikio Minamiyama, Consul from the Consulate-General of Japan in Seattle; John Talbott, Spokane Mayor; Yvonne Morton and Valerie Wahl from Cheney Cowles Museum (now known as Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture); distinguished guests; school recipients and guests who have traveled from Connecticut, New Mexico, Rhode Island, and everyone here today.

The Doll Festival, Hina Matsuri, has more than 1,000 years of history. Hina means chick, a newly born bird, a tiny thing and cute creature. Originating as a family tradition, Hina dolls are displayed in homes and handed down from mother to daughter for generations. These days, Hina doll sets like the one displayed here, are also displayed at schools, hotels, department stores and everywhere in Japan during the month of March. After being on display for one month, we store them away in boxes. The symbol of Hina Matsuri is peach flowers. Hina dolls are the reminders of family history, of grandparents, of mother's cooking, happy childhood, and of friends. Additionally in Japan, March is the time of graduations, and a new school year begins in April. Spring is the season of growth and new beginnings. Hina dolls bring these associations to the Japanese.

My special thanks to Mrs. Malkoc and her students for telling the history of Dr. Gulick's Friendship Dolls in such a wonderful way. I truly admire Dr. Gulick's vision and efforts. He wanted to send a message of friendship and peace to children's minds. Children, after all, are free from prejudice and discrimination, and their hearts and minds are open to love and friendship. Dr. Gulick chose dolls as the messengers. He was right. The Japanese are great doll lovers, as I think Americans are too. Even a rag doll, with its two eyes, feels human and we cannot throw it away.

Last spring, the Japanese Cultural Center announced the Rabbit Art contest because 1999 was the year of the rabbit according to the oriental zodiac calendar. Among the 2,000 entries from the U.S. and Japan, we found a rabbit doll made by Seita. He was one and a half years old when he made this at his nursery school in Hyogo, Japan. He shaped an ordinary plastic bag and added two eyes. It is my treasure.

On the morning of December 27, 73 years ago at the National Theater in Washington, D.C., there was a national welcome ceremony for the Japanese doll ambassadors. At the ceremony, Mrs. Lucy Peabody, member of the Committee on World Friendship Among Children said:

A hundred years from now, when wars have ceased and nations live together as friends and brothers, our children and our great-grandchildren will look back to this day when the children of our two nations sealed a bond of friendship through the gifts which have come to us from your little children.

In 1927 the Friendship Doll Plan motivated more than 5 million people in the U.S. and Japan. Yet, at the turning point to a new century we still have wars, hatred, and discrimination.

We must continue to sow the seeds of friendship and peace. To this, we are all witness.

Now let me introduce you to Miss Tokushima, a very quiet smiling lady. She was born in Tokyo in 1927. She is 73 years old. She looks so young for her age. Her dollmaker was one of the best in all of Japan and modeled her to look like a 5-year-old Japanese girl. She is not only a display doll; she can bend her arms and legs and she can even sit in a Japanese way. She also has a small voice box in her body! Miss Tokushima and her 57 sister dolls are top class artistic dolls who came to the U.S. in friendship.

It was early in 1992 when I first saw her at the Cheney Cowles Museum (now known as Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture) in the old trunk you see beside her. I was overwhelmed by her innocent smile and beauty. I decided immediately to celebrate the Doll Festival with her here. We were motivated first to show our appreciation of the people of Spokane for their long care and protection of the doll, and secondly, we wanted to share the history and story of friendship between the U.S. and Japan. We celebrated the first Doll Festival on March 3, 1992 at Cheney Cowles Museum. Since then, Miss Tokushima has attended every year, and we heartily appreciate the generosity of the Cheney Cowles Museum.

As we heard in the skit, war makes people crazy. But even in bad times, people have loved dolls and, more importantly, people have respected the message sent to children through the Friendship dolls. Each doll that has survived, American and Japanese, has an impressive story. Miss Tokushima and all the Friendship dolls in both countries are witnesses of the long history of U.S.-Japan relations. Dr. Sidney Gulick, 3d, grandson of the initiator, and his wife Frances continue the noble vision of Dr. Gulick. They are both doctors of mathematics at the University of Maryland. They started sending new American Friendship dolls to Japanese children 13 years ago, and have sent over 100 dolls with hand-made clothes.

We at Mukogawa were impressed as well. Our mother institution in Japan started fundraising to send new ambassador dolls to American children, and the first Japanese dolls were presented here to 53 recipients on March 3rd in 1993. Every fall in Japan, citizens give money to buy dolls, or donate from their personal collection, or make hand-made dolls for our program. Some of the dolls you see are gifts from students here today. Thank you Mukogawa students.

Stimulated by these friendly gifts, many American children and schools have become interested in the Japanese people and Japanese culture. Many letters, works of art, school albums and dolls are crossing the Pacific.

This year 2000 is a milestone. Today Japanese doll ambassadors are in all 50 states and Washington, D.C. as permanent gifts of friendship. Imagine, over 1,000 new friendship dolls in the U.S. and Japan looking at curious faces, smiling, watching, and listening to each other. Isn't it exciting? We hope everyone gathered here today will listen to the silent voices of the Friendship dolls. Please think about what they are saying. Please answer them.

The Japanese Cultural Center
Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute
4000 W Randolph Road
Spokane, WA 99224

Phone: 509-328-2971
Fax: 509-325-6540

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