Ellen Held by Eiko Takeda,
who has written several books
on the Friendship Dolls (1982)
All over the state public displays were held,
including one at the governor's mansion in Columbus. Mrs. Donahey, the
governor's wife, opened the lower floor of the executive mansion for a public
reception and display.
Then it was on to New York where a thousand
dolls were brought together for a final farewell ceremony at the Hotel Plaza.
Dolls were present from every state but one, as well as from Canada, Bermuda,
and Palestine. What a wonderful variety of costumes -- Girl Scout and Camp Fire
uniforms, Red Cross nurse outfits, and every imaginable type of American
children's dress. There were baby dolls, a bridal couple with a best man, and a
few rather terrified boy dolls. One sensational doll was nearly as large as a
child and could recite several nursery rhymes. I saw only one other Quaker
lady, Rebecca from Philadelphia, although there may have been more. Forty-eight
dolls were chosen to represent the states with the forty-ninth to serve as Miss
Five friendly steamship companies contributed
space on their ships for our delegation, some sailing from New York and others
from San Francisco. Travelers of today who can fly in a few hours to any spot
on earth might consider our voyage long and tedious. It was a matter of weeks
rather than hours to go through the Panama Canal and across the broad Pacific.
To me it was a rather welcome rest after all the excitement of our previous
weeks. It was soothing to hear the creaking of the ship and the sound of water
rushing by, accompanied by the whispers of all the little passengers. Skeptical
people may think that dolls don't communicate with one another, but how do they
Eventually we landed at Yokohama where great
receptions were held, both on board the ships and in a school before a large
audience of adults and children. Some dolls landed at Osaka but all gathered in
Tokyo for the grand welcome on March 3, 1927. As planned, we had arrived in
time for the annual Hina Matsuri or "Honorable Small Dolls'
Festival," the traditional girls' day and Feast of the Peach Blossom.
The Japanese Young Men's Hall in the beautiful
outer garden of the Meiji Shrine was the scene of the official reception. The
large hall was almost overflowing with Japanese and American guests, including
more than two thousand children. Seven princesses of the royal family were
present along with many diplomats and high officials. Two large flags of Japan
and America were on the wall behind the stage, which was decorated with an
impressive set of Japanese dolls placed on shelves as they are customarily
arranged for the doll festival. The program included songs, greetings,
speeches, welcomes, and band music by the Toyama Military School Band.
Forty-nine American girls from the American School in Tokyo spoke a message of
good will and presented
Miss America to the granddaughter of Prince Tokugawa. Then all the other
forty-eight girls handed over their Friendship Dolls to the Japanese girls.
Speeches were given by the American ambassador, Mr. MacVeagh, and by Viscount
Shibusawa, honorary chairman of the Japanese Committee on World Friendship
Among Children, a most distinguished and kindly man of eighty-eight years.
This event was representative of the welcoming
receptions held all over Japan in the prefectural capitals, and then in the
local towns and villages where we were to find new homes in primary schools and
kindergartens all over Japan.
My Japanese home turned out to be some distance
from Tokyo, although nothing is as far here as it is in the United States. I
traveled to the Southwest coast to Nagasaki Prefecture on the large island of
Kyushu, one of the four large islands which make up Japan, along with over
three thousand smaller ones. One of these small ones, about two hours travel
from the city of Nagasaki, is named Hirado Island. It has historical
significance in that it was the first seaport opened to Dutch traders during
the feudal period of Japan's history when there was practically no contact with
the outside world. A kindergarten on Hirado Island was to be my new home and I
could not have arrived at a lovelier season. The spring sunshine was warm and
the delicate pink of the cherry blossoms was everywhere. It was quite different
from the snow and cold I had left in Ohio.
Different also were the bright black eyes of the
Japanese children but the warmth of their welcome made me feel quite at home.
They had waited with eager anticipation for my coming and their eyes shone with
happiness. They took great delight in singing the Welcome Song, holding me in
their arms, and drawing many charming pictures. Photographs were taken, also,
as no function in Japan is ever complete without a photograph to commemorate
the occasion. As in schools all over the country, teachers helped with the
writing of thank-you letters, written by hand on Japanese paper, delicately
It was not long before thousands of school girls
were contributing small coins to help send fifty-eight large Doll Ambassadors
of Goodwill to the United States in acknowledgement of the Friendship Dolls.
These were created by the most skillful doll artists in the land and were
dressed to represent Japanese ladies of the aristocracy in gorgeous robes of
the most luxurious silk to be found in Japan. I have often wondered what has
become of these lovely creatures. Perhaps some day I shall find out.
As the years went by I came to appreciate the
gently changing seasons and the festivals and customs marking the different
times of the year. My favorite, of course, was the Hina Matsuri or Doll
Festival which has a very long history and shows girls the importance of
tradition in marriage and family life. It is also a celebration that observes
the birthdays of all Japanese girls.
Almost every family has a set of festival dolls
which may be family heirlooms, passed down from mother to daughter. The basic
set of dolls may be added from time to time. In preparation for the festival of
the "hina dan," wooden boxes in the form of steps, are placed
in the most important room of the house. There can be three to eight tiers, but
five is the most common, with seven also popular. The steps are covered with a
bright red cloth. At the top are placed the emperor and empress, elegantly
dressed, with a folding screen behind them. On the second step are three maids
of honor, or court ladies-in-waiting, along with tables with dishes for food
and drink to be served to the emperor and empress. On the third step are five
court musicians with imperial guards on each side. Here are also an orange tree
on the left and a cherry tree on the right, placed in the manner these trees
are always found in the Imperial Court. On the lower shelves are other dolls
from the collection along with pieces of miniature furniture, tableware, and
dishes, as well as peach blossoms. Miniature chests, screens, tables, cabinets,
flowers, or almost any item a bride might carry with her to her new home may be
The time of the doll festival is the most
exciting time of year for Japanese girls. It might be compared to the
excitement American children experience at Christmas time. For weeks before the
festival, shops display dolls and miniature food items. Girls have many duties
to perform in connection with the festival. They must wash and polish all the
items to be used. Also they help plan and purchase all the food to be served to
the dolls and to all the friends who come to see the displays. On the day of
the festival, March 3rd, traditional ceremonies are carried out with the girl
of the family as hostess, dressed in her finest embroidered kimono and most
beautiful sash of obi. The festival lasts only one day but the dolls are often
exhibited longer, and then put carefully away for another year.
The dolls are served a complete miniature
dinner, including soup, fish, vegetables and sweets. Food is first offered to
the emperor and empress and other doll guests. Then small tables are prepared
for friends and family who eat from miniature bowls and dishes.
I was honored to be included in the Doll
Festival each year, sometimes in the home of one of the teachers or one of the
students. I made hundreds of new friends as each new class started
After a number of years (I must admit that I
lost track of time) things began to be different. I could hear the teachers
talking of the terrible war that was being fought all over the world. I felt
very sad and disappointed when I learned that Japan and America were no longer
friends, but bitter enemies. Had we Friendship Dolls failed in our wonderful
mission? I did not think we had failed completely for some of the teachers were
also sad about the war and did not agree with the militaristic leaders who were
ordering teachers "to dispose of the American dolls sent by the
enemies." I was really frightened when I heard that most of the friendship
dolls were suffering brutal deaths. Some were being burned, some trampled on,
and others pierced with bamboo spears to arouse in children's minds hatred
against the Americans. However, I was reassured by the attitude of the teachers
at my school. Two of the lady teachers argued that the Friendship Dolls had
nothing to do with the war and they decided to lock me away in the school
storage area until all the insanity was over. They maintained that people are
different from governments and don't always approve of the foolish things
governments sometimes do.
Thus it was that I began my years of living in a
box in 1942. At first I kept wondering how soon someone would come and take me
out. I was very lonely for all the children. As time dragged on I lost hope. It
was then that I decided to follow the example of the Sleeping Beauty, whom I
had heard about in a story. I would just go to sleep and time would not matter,
even though it were a hundred years.
I did not sleep for a hundred years -- more like
forty -- and it was not a prince who woke me up but someone cleaning out a
dusty storeroom. I really didn't care, though. I was just delighted to join the
real world once more. Fortunately my name tag was still intact along with the
information that I had come from Wilmington Friends Bible School. It seems that
I was the first Friendship Doll to be discovered in Nagasaki Prefecture and the
event was publicized in the newspapers and on television.
I was restored to my former honored place in the
Hirado Kindergarten and once more became the friend of children. It took me
some time to get used to all the changes that had taken place during my long
sleep. I learned that I was fortunate to have survived the war. Even the dolls
who were hidden away in the city of Nagasaki had been destroyed, along with
countless people in the terrible bombing of August, 1945. I was very sad to
know that it was the Americans who had dropped the atomic bomb. At the same
time I was encouraged to learn how the survivors in devastated Nagasaki had
regained the spirit and rebuilt their city. I felt proud to live in my adopted
country of Japan, which has not spent large wasteful sums of money on
armaments, but has built up useful industries.
A noted author of children's books, Eiko Takeda,
came to visit me, along with Hirobumi Toyama, a high school teacher of English
from Nagasaki. Thus it came about that I was included in a book written to help
Japanese students learn English. It is called Little Mary, the Blue-eyed
Doll, and is about a fictional Friendship Doll named Mary who was burned
up in the Nagasaki bombing. I am also included in another book edited by Eiko
Takeda about all the one hundred and seventy Friendship Dolls which have been
discovered throughout Japan. Unfortunately for my American friends in
Wilmington who have received a copy of this book from Hirobumi Toyama, it is
entirely in Japanese and they will need help in translating it.
Another book in which I appear briefly is Dolls of
Friendship, published in 1929 by the Committee on World
Friendship Among Children. This book, now sadly out of print, describes in
great detail the entire project, as well as the sending of the Japanese
black-eyed ambassadors to America.
If anyone reading my story should ever visit
Japan, do come and see me in the Hirado Yochien (Kindergarten), 1219-1 Iwanoue-Machi,
Hirado City, Nagasaki Prefecture. I feel certain that this is not the end of my
story -- merely the close of one chapter. I hope that the miracle of my
survival will inspire many more bridges of friendship across the world.
Author Mary E. Stanfield is USFWI Secretary of Peace and Social Relations. She
is a member of Wilmington Friends Meeting, and librarian in Xenia, Ohio. She
represents USFW at annual meetings of Friends Committee on National
Legislation, William Penn House Committee and the Friends Coordinating
Committee on Peace. Her special interests are New Call to Peacemaking, Nuclear
Freeze Movement, simplified lifestyles, women's rights, world hunger and
sharing of resources.
Appendix A - Sources of Information
Appendix B - List of organizations in the
Clinton County area that purchased and dressed 58 dolls