There are two American Blue-eyed Dolls at Mikuma Kindergarten (124 children, Director Hitoshi Minagi) in Hita City in Oita Prefecture. When passing under the arch-shaped gate, the soft singing of "My Grandfather's Old Clock" could be heard. The kindergarten was founded in 1925 on the grounds of Ganshoji Temple of the Shinshu Otani Sect. Mr. Minagi is the third director of the kindergarten.
Waiting for us were two dolls, "Carolyn Becker" and one whose name is not known now. Each doll has painted eyes on a molded body. Carolyn has legs that move, and she is a doll who can sit with her legs stretched out.
Carolyn arrived at the kindergarten when Mr. Minagi's grandfather was there. "In a time when there were few educational materials, it probably was rare for the children to touch a foreign-born doll. There was also a custom of Hita's town merchant families to get a Japanese doll from Kyoto for birthday celebrations, so they were probably filled with joy at the Western doll. They say that the children hugged Carolyn and played with her."
Backing up Mr. Minagi's story is a pre-World War II graduation photo showing Carolyn right in the middle of the children.
The dolls appeared again in public about 30 years ago. "A TV program called "11 pm" featured Hita on one of its shows. We took the dolls from the storehouse, and they appeared on the program. "By this program the dolls' existence was made known 40 years after they came to Japan. About 20 years ago when the dolls appeared in the "War Exhibition" held at Kokura in Kitakyushu, "the people who were students at our kindergarten in 1927 vaguely remembered the dolls, and I heard they fondly remembered their childhood when the dolls came from their hometown."
But why was the doll whose name is unknown kept in the temple together with Carolyn? One can guess that when the governmental order came to destroy the American dolls, a kindhearted person who understood the significance of the doll exchange disposed of the doll's passport and other items such as letters in order to destroy any evidence of the doll's existence. Just the doll was stored in the temple. Now she plays happily with the kindergarten children as Carolyn's friend.
Mr. Minagi explains, "Each year the dolls are both taken out and displayed on Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival). When we talk about fighting and peace, showing the dolls seems to make it easier for the children to understand."
Published on February 21, 2003 by the Nagasaki Shimbun
This is a translation of a Japanese
web page (link no longer available).
Special thanks to the Nagasaki Shimbun for permission to publish this web page.
Visit to Mikuma Kindergarten
Carolyn Becker's Passport and Ticket
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