Elizabeth Ann - Blue-eyed Doll
at Benkebetsu Elementary School

 

The Blue-eyed Doll at right is located at Benkebetsu Elementary School in Tobetsu Town in Hokkaido. The doll is named "Elizabeth Ann."

Ann arrived in 1927 as Japanese-American friendship ambassador. Besides Ann, three other dolls came to Tobetsu Town.

The exact date of Elizabeth Ann's arrival at Benkebetsu Common School is not known. There remains no record, but based on the stories of people who remember her coming, everyone, dressed in their best clothes, went to greet her at Tobetsu Elementary School.

A 1983 article in the Hokkaido Shimbun told the story of Elizabeth Ann, who came here to Benkebetsu from America with the hope for Japanese-American friendship. From that article one can understand the joys and sorrows of the people living in those days and their affection toward the doll.

The "Blue-eyed Doll" that came to Benkebetsu in Hokkaido all the way from faraway America brought dreams to the children of that time. The girls gave to Ann a Japanese doll as a friend by giving two sen (about one cent) each so she would not be alone and become lonesome.

After Elizabeth Ann came to Benkebetsu Elementary School, peaceful times did not continue for long. Both Elizabeth Ann and the children were engulfed by the war.

At the height of World War II in 1943, over 10,000 "Blue-eyed Dolls" kept at schools all over the country were destroyed and burned based on a national order about the "enemy dolls" and "increasing the fighting spirit."

How was Elizabeth Ann able to survive at Benkebetsu Elementary School? Why was she not destroyed, and why was she put away inside a closet at the corner of the school building? The fact is that the doll was not just thrown inside the closet. Principal Tameji Imura and Vice-principal Makoto Chiba hid her in the closet. In a newspaper article Principal Imura recalls those days, "Even though we agreed to burn the Blue-eyed Dolls at a meeting of Tobetsu principals, I just could not do it. It was not really a feeling like hanging myself. I just did not want to destroy her."

Principal Kiyonobu Tsujioka discovered her. In March 1973, he found her when by chance he went to the storage area and was arranging items in the closet. She came in 1927, so a period of 46 long years had passed. It had been 30 years since the time she had been hidden in the closet.

Nowadays, Elizabeth Ann and a brochure from 1927 are displayed near the teachers' entrance. From inside the doll case I think she wishes everyone happiness as she hears our cheerful voices.

This is an English translation of a Japanese web page.
Special thanks to Benkebetsu Elementary School for permission to publish this web page.

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