Miss Okayama
and Her Times


6 - Konko's Bessie
Even Now a Friendship Messenger of Peace
    The day Bessie came to the kindergarten. Children welcome her with Japanese and American flags and play together with her. (July 21, 1927, Konko Gakuen KIndergarten)
Barbies, German baby dolls, finger dolls, Japanese wooden dolls, ...  One of the 7th-grade classes at Konko Gakuen Junior High School (Uramishinden, Konko Town, Okayama Prefecture) chose dolls for the theme of this fall's cultural festival. Among the 150 dolls from 20 countries lined up in the classroom, Bessie also was sitting.

Rina Yasui (13), who served as the implementation committee chairperson, says, "Because we were impressed by Bessie's history and because she was loved at the kindergarten, we were moved by her presence."

After Bessie came from America to Konko Gakuen Kindergarten in 1927, she has been kept there as a "Friendship Doll." She has been displayed at the kindergarten for 74 years, and she was not hidden during the war when the Friendship Dolls were considered to be dolls of the enemy.

Her height is 40 centimeters. Her hair is chestnut-colored, and she has grayish-blue eyes. She wears a red coat over a dress with a pattern of pink flowers, and she wears a black velvet hat. The chair she sits on is a specially-ordered item prepared by Taro and Kimiko Mishiro, who ran Konko when the doll was given.

Today's children also interested in Bessie, exhibited at this fall's cultural festival (Konko Gakuen Junior High School)
Haruko Nishi (82; resident of Konko Town, Omachi), former kindergarten director who was an elementary school student in 1927, on June 17 of that year accompanied her mother Aiko, one of the teachers who later served as kindergarten director, to attend a doll lottery at the prefectural government headquarters. "Even though I thought we would be able to receive a doll on that day, we really waited a long time. I was disappointed." Because she was really looking forward to it, even now she clearly remembers the day.

Bessie attended prefectural welcome ceremonies and exhibitions along with the other dolls, and she was also shown in an exhibition in Asakuchi-gun. She arrived at the kindergarten more than one month later on July 21. In a welcome ceremony photo still at the kindergarten, there are children staring with serious expressions at Bessie, being held up by Aiko.

Afterwards, the doll was placed in a case and kept in the resource room, but every year she was publicly displayed along with the other dolls on Hina Matsuri (Doll Festival).

Eiko Kanemitsu, a graduate of the kindergarten and the assistant librarian at the Konko Library, wrote about the history of Bessie in this March's edition of Town History. She reflects back, "The figure of Bessie placed among the Japanese hina dolls is burnt into my memory."

"Since she was close at hand, I did not think she was such a valuable doll until I did this research."

Bessie has participated in exchange classes at Kaya Elementary School in Shima Town in Fukuoka Prefecture, which also has a Friendship Doll; a documentary produced by the Sanyo High School Broadcasting Club; and exhibitions in both Japan and America. Even now she is active as a friendship messenger of peace.

(published September 29, 2001)

Copyright (C) 2001, Sanyo Shimbun
Special thanks to the Sanyo Shimbun for permission to publish this web page.

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

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