Reprinted with permission from
Dolls of Friendship, 2nd Edition,
copyright 1997, Sidney L. Gulick, 3d

Account of Doll Receptions in Japan

Many interesting accounts of the doll receptions came from Americans who were in Japan at the time of the arrival of the dolls.  Here is one typical account:

I wish you could have seen some of the welcome ceremonies the friendship dolls received. Receptions were given to them by the highest officials of the land just as if they had been real ambassadors from America.

Officials in the prefectural office had a ship built of paper with the sea all around, the ship just entering Yokohama harbor. The dolls were on deck or peeping from the portholes with coats and hats on, all ready to land. Japanese dolls stood on the pier ready to welcome them, waving the American and Japanese flags.

Next scene: American dolls were being shown the wonders of the city, Japanese dolls acting as guides.

Next scene: All were seated around tables at a welcome banquet. A lovely Japanese lady doll was giving an address of welcome, while a number of elegantly dressed ladies and gentlemen in waiting were ready to serve the guests, and little maids in kimonos waited on table.

Then came the tea party at Miyajima. The dolls were sitting on the green lawn or in rustic seats or by the seaside, having such a good time. One was so tired that she was in the hotel taking a rest. One was in such a funny position that I asked if she had been broken on the way, and then happened to glance at the notice, which said: "I can do my hands and feet any way I like."

This exhibit, the most beautiful display of dolls I ever saw, was in the Commercial Museum, a large modern building. From morning till late at night crowds flocked to see it. So many came that from time to time the gates had to be shut to keep the crowds back until the building could be partly emptied. This scene continued for a week. The last night at ten o'clock more crowds were waiting to get in.

After this the dolls were distributed to the various schools and kindergartens throughout the prefecture.

The most touching of the ceremonies I witnessed was at a country school where never before had any foreigner come. The school principal sent an invitation for us to come and present the doll. The whole village took a holiday. It was a perfect day. The school was by the seashore. The mountain had been dug down to make room for the buildings. The special guests of honor were the people of the village over seventy-five years old. A delegation met us at the train and escorted us through the village to the school. As we passed, children were standing to bow welcome; Miss Maddox, the kindergartner, said she realized how royalty must feel. The school grounds were gay with flags of all nations. The assembly room was decorated with cherry blossoms. On a platform the usual tiers of doll festival type were at the back, with the dolls arranged according to custom. All the guests except the Americans were seated on the floor in front of the platform. The children were seated around the guests, packed so thick that not an inch of floor was left. It was a sea of black hair, shining eyes, and rosy cheeks, a glowing background to the weather-beaten faces of the old folks in the village.

After the singing of the Japanese national hymn (they made an apology for not being able to sing the American national air), we three visiting Americans met two Japanese children, a boy and a girl, on the platform. Margaret Cobb carried the doll, and after due bowings presented the doll in behalf of the children of America. The Japanese girl received the doll. Then the boy received it from the girl and held it very tenderly and carefully, while the girl presented Margaret with a present in memory of the occasion. The two girls clasped hands. The enthusiastic clapping of hands made it seem as if the roof might be lifted. On many an old wrinkled face, hardened by years of toil on the sea or land, there were tears of joy; the grandchildren and great-grandchildren had come into a beautiful inheritance-- friendship between the two countries that could insure the peace of the Pacific. These young folks would not be called on to support large navies or go to war, but could pursue the arts of peace, making their country rich through the service of her people in productive work.

After the ceremony was over, of course there must be a photograph. No function in Japan is ever complete without a photograph to keep the occasion green in memory. The doll was the child in the midst, the emblem of friendship and goodwill.

Dinner was served to all guests. They had sent to the city and ordered a course dinner for the American guests, as they feared we could not eat the Japanese food. We assured them we were happy to sit on the floor and partake of the same food as the others. As we ate, different ones had some word to say of the joy of the day. One old man came and sat by me, saying it was very impolite of him to speak to me while I was eating, but he was so happy he could not refrain from expressing his gratitude. Never before in this village had foreigners and Japanese sat and partaken of food together. One old man said he had seen the reign of four emperors, but never before had he witnessed anything like this.

Someone should write a book on the reception of these dolls. History gives us nothing like it.

Photo of American doll received at Nagadohe Elementary School in Ishikawa Prefecture
Reception Ceremony at Takasago Kindergarten in Hyogo Prefecture
Reception at Kutsukake Elementary School
in Ibaraki Prefecture
Blue-eyed Doll Welcoming Ceremony at Sanmi Elementary School

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