Nango Village Museum
of History and Folklore

This article about Mary, who is kept at the Nango Village Museum of History and Folklore, was published in the Daily Tohoku on March 16, 1997. On this page we tell you the story of Mary.

Seventy years ago the Blue-eyed Dolls from America crossed the Pacific Ocean as Japanese-American friendship ambassadors. More than 12,000 dolls were given to elementary schools throughout the country. However, afterward the dolls faced the tragedy of being burnt and thrown away when war broke out between Japan and the U.S. Today only 195 are confirmed to exist in the entire country. One of these remain in Nango Village, famous for jazz. Her name is Mary, and she is the only doll from 1927 in the southern part of Aomori Prefecture. The few who know about her existence believe it is a great opportunity for "Mary to hear jazz from her home country as we commemorate the 70th anniversary of her arrival in Japan." Nango Village also has started to consider some way to remember her coming to Japan in 1927.

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Over 12,000 girl dolls were given in January 1927 by the Committee on World Friendship Among Children. According to their name of "goodwill doll ambassador," each one had an attached message from American children hoping for Japanese-American friendship. They were distributed to elementary schools throughout Japan.

There were 220 dolls distributed to Aomori Prefecture, and 37 of these went to Sannohe-gun (now known as Sanpachi Region). Two were given to Shimamori and Ichinosawa Elementary Schools in Nango Village.

The Blue-eyed Dolls said "mama" when hugged, and they were taken care of and loved by the children. They were a symbol of prewar Japanese-American relations. However, a cruel fate awaited these dolls. In the midst of war in 1943, the Education Ministry called for the destruction of the Friendship Dolls.

The dolls became victims of the war as they were set afire and stabbed with bamboo spears. The doll given to Shimamori Elementary School was thought to have met the same fate.  However, because of the diligent searching in 1958 of Takehisa Matsuzaka (79 years old), former Village Board of Education President, the doll was discovered in the attic of the home economics classroom.

Mr. Matsuzaka, who at that time was PTA Chairman at the school, said, "The doll was received when I was a third grader at the school. Believing some kind person must have hid the doll somewhere, I searched for it with the Vice Principal."

Mary, who was finally found, was in danger again during a fire at the school in 1967. After the fire, Mary, who was dirty from the water used to put out the fire, was about to be burned with the other trash. Mr. Matsuzaka found her and she narrowly escaped destruction.

"It was a hair's breadth before she was about to be thrown into the fire. If I had been a few seconds later, . . . . Anyway, it was good she was saved," he reflected. Mary was rescued twice by Mr. Matsuzaka, and she has miraculously survived. Now she is kept at the Nango Village Museum of History and Folklore.

Copyright (c) 1997 NANGO MURA

This is an English translation of a Japanese web page (link no longer available).

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