Blue-eyed Dolls
In the 1920s during the worldwide recession, in America anti-Japanese sentiment toward immigrants from Japan was growing. However, in the midst of that trend, Dr. Sidney L. Gulick, who had worked and lived in several places in Japan for more than 20 years, discussed the issue together with Eiichi Shibusawa, one of Japan's leading businessmen and a philanthropist. Dr. Gulick believed that from childhood mutual understanding and friendship should be emphasized, and he thought of the idea to give Friendship Dolls to Japanese children.

At the urging of Dr. Gulick, American children gave their pocket money and bought dolls. Some contributed their own dolls. Many dolls were given to Japan. In 1927 the dolls of friendship came to Japan together with messages of goodwill from Dr. Gulick, American children, and various other people.

Hoping that Japan and American may always be loyal friends. This doll is going to Japan as a messenger to communicate friendship. I hope she will be able to participate in your country's Doll Festival (Hina Matsuri).
The number of these dolls was greater than 12,700. These Friendship Dolls were given not only to elementary schools and kindergartens within Japan but also to schools on the Korean Peninsula and in Taiwan, where there was strong Japanese influence in those days. About 140 dolls came to Gunma Prefecture.

The Friendship Dolls were welcomed by Japanese children as "Blue-eyed Dolls" because a song entitled "Blue-eyed Doll" (lyrics - Yaso Saijo, music - Nagayo Motoori) was popular in those days. It was decided that 58 Japanese dolls would be given to America as "Dolls of Gratitude" (Torei Ningyo), and these dolls received a warm welcome throughout America.

In the beginning, the Blue-eyed Dolls received huge welcomes throughout Japan as messengers of friendship and a new culture, but a little more than ten years later many dolls met a sad fate during World War II.

Thirty years after the end of the war, when the world was peaceful and prosperous, stories became known of many Blue-eyed Dolls that had been kept safely throughout Japan, including about 20 in Gunma Prefecture. In Agatsuma-gun there are two dolls, one at Sakaue Elementary School in Agatsuma Town and at our school, Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School.

The Blue-eyed Doll that came to Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School in 1927 was greeted by the children with a specially-composed welcome song.

You came from far across the sea
Pretty, pretty doll
Let's all greet you kindly

Pretty, pretty doll
Filled with the pure spirit of
Our friends from across the sea
We all welcome you  
The doll was together with the children during singing lessons and as the inspiration for drawings and compositions. The children also donated money for the Ambassador Dolls to be sent to the US.

The doll was protected by teachers during the war, and afterward the doll passed time hidden in the corner of the teacher's room. As interest in the Blue-eyed Dolls grew again throughout Japan, decades afterward the doll met again the teachers and children from that time.

This doll now is displayed at the Nakanojo Museum of History and Folklore together with two small dolls.

In 1996, a New Blue-eyed Doll named Isabelle was given to the school by Mr. Gulick, 3d, Dr. Gulick's grandson, and his wife. The new doll is displayed in the principal's office (see Note at bottom of page).

* Top left photo - Blue-eyed Doll Rosemary (Nakanojo Museum of History and Folklore)
* Bottom right photo - New Blue-eyed Doll Isabelle (Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School
Reference - Yokohama Doll Museum, Yokohama International Tourist Association, Doll Exchanges Beginning With the Blue-eyed Dolls, 1991.

This is an English translation of a Japanese web page (link no longer available).
Special thanks to Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School for permission to publish this web page.

Note: Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School closed in 2005, and the school's original Blue-eyed Doll and new Blue-eyed Doll are now at the Nakanojo Museum of History and Folklore.

Below are photos of Isabelle and her passport at Nakanojo Museum of History and Folklore.

Thanks to Linka Wade for the above photos of Isabelle and her passport.

Return to American Blue-eyed Dolls - Individual Dolls

Return to American Blue-eyed Dolls - New Dolls

Main Page | 1927 Doll Exchange | Japanese Friendship Dolls | American Blue-eyed Dolls
Mass Media / Books / Films | Letters
Other Friendship Doll Programs | Teachers' Corner
Links | Recent Changes | Acknowledgements | Children's Page