This is a fictional story based on the history of the Friendship Dolls.

Through the Night
by Bill Gordon

About the middle of February each year, the teachers at Izumi Elementary School placed many kimono-clad dolls on a seven-tier stand and displayed them near the stage in the gym. On March 3, the day of the Doll Festival, the students assembled in the gym to sing songs and perform skits. One of the children's favorite songs for the Doll Festival used to be "Blue-eyed Doll," a song about an American doll that could not speak Japanese but wanted to be friends with Japanese children. In 1943, with Japan and the U.S. at war, the children at Izumi no longer sang such a song.

Kiyoko, a fourth-grade student at Izumi, loved to celebrate the Doll Festival both at home and school. Two or three weeks before the annual Doll Festival, Kiyoko's mother assembled a five-tiered stand covered in bright red cloth and put it in the front room. Kiyoko and her mother carefully placed ten small dolls on the stand. On the top tier sat the emperor and empress from ancient times, and court musicians and ladies-in-waiting were on the lower tiers. Kiyoko's favorite doll was the empress, who wore a twelve-layered red silk kimono with gold trim and held in her hands a golden fan with a crooked pine tree painted on it. This doll set, handed down from Kiyoko's great-grandmother, also had miniature chests of drawers, banquet trays, two lamps, a tea set, trunks, and a gilded folding screen behind the emperor and empress at the top. During the season of the Doll Festival, Kiyoko and her mother made pink, white, and green rice cakes, which they served to the dolls along with white rice wine. Kiyoko's friends visited sometimes to view the dolls and have a doll party.

On Monday morning, Kiyoko walked quickly with a couple of her friends along the narrow road leading to Izumi Elementary. When they got near the school, they started running toward the gym, all of them anxious to see this year's doll display, which had been set up by the teachers over the weekend. They rushed up to the doll stand, already surrounded by students, to view more than twenty dolls dressed in colorful kimonos. Kiyoko noticed two new boy dolls, dressed in brownish-green soldier suits, standing on each side of the second tier. "Oh, these two new dolls have soldier uniforms," she said with a slight grimace on her face.

"They'll kill the terrible Americans," said a sixth-grade boy who lived near Kiyoko's home.

"Don't say that," said Masao. "Dolls shouldn't fight." Kiyoko appreciated this comment from Masao, her classmate. Although Masao was a boy, sometimes they enjoyed going together to look for butterflies and dragonflies around the school grounds and in the nearby woods.

Kiyoko searched the doll display for Rosemary, the school's blue-eyed doll from America. Last year Rosemary stood in the center surrounded by Japanese dolls, but now Kiyoko could not find her anywhere. She went to her classroom to talk with her teacher, Mrs. Yamada. "What happened to Rosemary?" Kiyoko asked. "She's not in the doll display. I'd like to see her."

"Sorry, Kiyoko-chan, now we can't show anything from America," said Mrs. Yamada. "But since you like her so much, see me before you go home, and I'll tell you more about her."

* * *

As the bullet train nears Okayama City on the morning of March 3, 1974, Kiyoko sees the city’s gray buildings in the distance. She looks forward to her visit to Izumi Elementary School, which she has not seen since 1944. Several former students and teachers will attend a special ceremony at Izumi in honor of Rosemary, one of the dolls sent from America before the war to encourage peace and friendship between Japan and America. This morning Kiyoko is traveling west to Okayama City from her home in Kyoto Prefecture. She thinks back again to the day in 1943 when her fourth-grade teacher revealed Rosemary's secrets to her.

* * *

After the children finish cleaning the building at the end of the school day, Kiyoko and Masao go to see their teacher, Mrs. Yamada. "I have a special friend who wants to see you two," says Mrs. Yamada with a smile. "Let's go down to the art room."

They walk to the end of the hall on the second floor and enter the art room. Mrs. Yamada opens the door to the large storage closet near the window, where Kiyoko and Masao look out on the playground and see about ten children still playing before they return home. Mrs. Yamada goes into the closet, turns on the single light bulb hanging from the ceiling, and asks the two children to enter. "Don't be too loud, so the principal and other teachers will not hear us." She takes a wooden box from the top shelf and gently lowers it to the floor. After opening the lid, she carefully unwraps some newspapers and holds up a doll about eighteen inches tall. "Isn't Rosemary cute?"

"Ahh, she's so pretty," says Kiyoko. "Look at her black coat and beret." Rosemary has short blond wavy hair coming out from under the black beret and extending almost to her shoulders. She wears light tan socks and scuffed black shoes with ribbons fastening them to her ankles. Her stylish black coat has an off-white collar and an off-white stripe at each cuff.

Mrs. Yamada opens up Rosemary's black coat, which extends to her ankles. Inside the doll's coat she shows the two children her blue and white pattern dress with a black ribbon tied at the neck.

"Look at the pocket on her dress with three little flowers on it," says Masao.

"Oh, on the inside of her coat there's a little pocket for coins," says Kiyoko.

"Here, Kiyoko-chan, please hold her," Mrs. Yamada says as she hands the doll to her. Kiyoko leans Rosemary back in her arms, and the doll's blue eyes close shut. Kiyoko hugs Rosemary, who cries, "mama."

"Did you hear that?" says Masao. "I didn't know she could talk."

"Yes, Rosemary is a special doll," says Mrs. Yamada. "She even has an extra dress." Mrs. Yamada holds up a pale yellow summer dress with white lace trim around the neckline.

"Who made all her clothes?" asks Masao.

"I'm not sure, but probably some teachers or mothers of the American students who sent Rosemary to us," says Mrs. Yamada.

"Students?" says Masao looking puzzled.

"Yes, Rosemary is a gift from a school in America," says Mrs. Yamada. "They even sent us a letter." She pulls out of the box some brownish paper that includes a Japanese translation. "Masao-kun, please read this letter."

Masao reads slowly and asks Mrs. Yamada three or four times to help him read some difficult characters.

Glenfield School               
Montclair, New Jersey               
January 4, 1927               

Dear little friends of Japan:

We are so interested in your doll festival that we are sending this doll, Rosemary, to live with you. We hope that you will enjoy her, for we took great care in dressing her. You probably have many, many Japanese dolls, but we hope this American doll will be a great addition.

Please be a good friend to Rosemary. May our countries always be good friends.

Sincerely yours,               
(signed by children)               

"But why did they send her if now they're fighting us?" says Kiyoko.

"Many people don't want war," says Mrs. Yamada. "They want to be friends with people in foreign countries."

"I'd like a friend from another country," says Kiyoko.

They hear someone walking up the stairs. "Stay here," says Mrs. Yamada as she sticks her head out of the closet. She sees Miss Kobayashi, the fifth-grade teacher, go down the hall to her classroom. "It's OK, but let's talk quietly," says Mrs. Yamada to the two children.

"OK," Kiyoko and Masao reply.

"Hey, what's in that big envelope in the box?" says Kiyoko.

"Lots," Mrs. Yamada says. She lets the children look at Rosemary's passport, which gives her place of birth and personal description. She also pulls out an old newspaper article from the large envelope. "In 1927, American children sent many dolls to Japan," says Mrs. Yamada. "About 12,000 dolls were given to elementary schools and kindergartens throughout Japan. Please listen to this article from 1927."

While the blue-eyed dolls were on exhibition in the six large department stores of Osaka, the boys and girls of the city were filled with delight, and crowded daily to exchange friendly compliments with them.

The project of sending such doll messengers to this country was motivated by the idea that good understanding and friendship should be cultivated in the hearts of the younger generation in both countries.

On March 3, Japan's doll festival day, the official ceremony of receiving the dolls was held in the Osaka public hall, where boys and girls representing all the primary schools of the city assembled in large numbers.

"Wow, I wish I'd been there," says Masao.

"I would've hugged them all," says Kiyoko with a big smile.

"I was a new teacher here at Izumi in 1927 when the students gave Rosemary a huge welcome," says Mrs. Yamada. "Okayama Prefecture received over 200 dolls, and we were lucky to get such a cute doll as Rosemary. Take a look at this photo."

"Ah, look at the children holding dolls," exclaims Kiyoko.

"Sshh, please be a little quieter." says Mrs. Yamada. "Someone may hear us. On the day of Rosemary's welcome, many girls and quite a few boys brought dolls from home." The large photo has about 400 students, with teachers in back, standing in front of Izumi's old wooden school building torn down in 1934. Some children hold dolls with faces almost as large as theirs, and some have dolls only slightly larger than their hands.

"Who is the man in front holding Rosemary?" asks Masao.

"He was Izumi's principal," says Mrs. Yamada. "He was a kind man who encouraged everyone to be friends with Rosemary. He always smiled as he walked around the school, and the children and teachers all loved him very much."

"Look, even one of the teachers in back is holding a tall doll," says Kiyoko.

"I like the boys' checkered kimonos," says Masao.

"It must have been a special event," says Kiyoko. "Most of the girls are wearing pretty flowered kimonos."

"On the day in May when this photo was taken, we had a welcome ceremony for Rosemary in the gym," says Mrs. Yamada. "We brought out the special doll stand used for the Doll Festival. All the children's dolls crowded in next to Rosemary, who stood in the middle of the top tier. The students sang a special song written by one of the teachers. Kiyoko-chan, please read the lyrics."

Kiyoko takes the page with the handwritten words and reads:

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

"What happened to Rosemary after the welcome ceremony?" asks Masao.

"During the first year the children played with Rosemary and took her with them as a special visitor to all their activities," Mrs. Yamada explained. "She learned how to plant rice. She went down to the riverbank to watch fireflies at night. The girls took her to watch the boys' sumo tournament. She sometimes wore a blue silk kimono with butterflies and peonies that one student's mother made for her. Rosemary often visited art classes so she could be a model for the children's drawings and paintings."

"Wow, she must have been tired," says Kiyoko. "Did she ever go to sleep?"

"Not really," says Mrs. Yamada. "So much playing caused her clothes and body to get worn and dirty. Look here, she has a big crack at the back of her neck, and her face is chipped in a few places. So we decided to put Rosemary on display, even though the children still wanted to play with her. The school janitor built a wooden display case for Rosemary, and we placed her in the principal's office."

* * *

Kiyoko smiles when she thinks back to the many cherished secrets Mrs. Yamada told her and Masao in the art room closet over thirty years ago. Mrs. Yamada would have been very happy to see Rosemary again, but Kiyoko had heard that she had passed away three years ago.

Kiyoko's train had arrived at Okayama Station, and now she is riding a crowded morning bus to a stop about a half-mile from Izumi Elementary School. As she looks out the window, she does not recognize any of the buildings, since over half the city was reduced to rubble during the war bombings and subsequent fires. She pushes a small button above the window to notify the bus driver to let her off at the next stop. When the bus stops, she helps an elderly woman off the bus, and then she begins the walk to Izumi. As she sets off toward the school, she recalls the long night that awaited Rosemary.

* * *

In the middle of March 1943, the 550 students of Izumi Elementary School gather one morning in the school gym. The sixth graders will graduate this week, and they put on a play about the war. Mr. Nakamura, Izumi's principal, gives a speech at the end of the assembly. "We must be good citizens to support the war," he says. "I want to thank the sixth graders for their fine play on how Japan will lead Asia to defeat our enemies. As good little soldiers in this war, you must get rid of everything related to our enemies. Not long ago our enemy America sent many dolls as spies to our country. We had one of these American dolls here at our school, but I am happy to announce that this horrible doll has been burned. American dolls at other schools have also been destroyed, so now we can celebrate."

Kiyoko sits on the gym floor, stunned at the principal's words. She holds back her tears, afraid the principal may find out much she loved Rosemary. "Maybe Mr. Nakamura did not really burn the doll," thinks Kiyoko. "I saw Rosemary not long ago in the art room closet, so she must still be there."

After Kiyoko finishes her cleaning chores at the end of the day, she runs to the art room closet and looks up at the top shelf. Not seeing Rosemary's wooden box, she runs out of the room crying. She rushes down the stairs and out of the building to a far corner of the playground, where she can hide her many tears. After a few minutes standing alone, she returns to the school to talk with Mrs. Yamada.

"Why did the principal burn Rosemary?" asks Kiyoko.

"Kiyoko-chan, I'm sorry," says Mrs. Yamada. "This war causes people to do crazy things. I know you love Rosemary very much, so I'll tell you what happened."

Last Wednesday morning, Mr. Nakamura attended the monthly meeting for elementary school principals of Okayama City. The Board of Education Director discussed an article entitled "Smash the Blue-eyed Dolls," which was published last month in the Mainichi Shimbun, one of the national newspapers. "Surely we must rid our schools of all American influences, and these American dolls must be destroyed," the Director said. "This newspaper article has a message from the Education Ministry in Tokyo. Let me read part of it:

If the dolls are being displayed, they should be removed and then destroyed, burnt, or thrown into the sea. It is natural that such things be removed when the war to defeat America and Britain has begun.

We must wipe out these 'masked goodwill ambassadors' who have been sent as spies. This article also gives the results of a survey of students in the fifth grade and above. When asked what should be done to these American dolls, the children gave the following answers: destroy the dolls - 89 students; burn them - 133; send the dolls back - 44 students; put the dolls in a visible place and bully them every day - 31; and throw them into the sea - 33 children. You can decide how your dolls will be destroyed, but they must be disposed of by the end of the month."

When Mr. Nakamura returned to Izumi, he scheduled a meeting with the teachers for late Friday afternoon. "Our American doll must be destroyed as soon as possible," Mr. Nakamura said to the teachers. "Last year I had this doll removed from my office and stored away since I hated this symbol of our enemy." The principal's opinions had become more and more extreme in support of the war. He no longer wore suits, but rather brownish-green military-style clothing. In addition to the principal, only four men remained as teachers at the school, since able-bodied men between 18 and 45 had left for military service.

"The doll will not bother anyone in storage," said Miss Sasaki, a young second-grade teacher. "Is it OK just to keep the doll hidden rather than destroy it?"

"No, the Board of Education has ordered it to be destroyed," said Mr. Nakamura.

"I heard that a doll was destroyed in front of the students at another school," said Mr. Asano, a sixth-grade teacher in his late fifties who was known for his militaristic views. "The teachers first let some older students stab the doll with bamboo spears. Then they placed the doll on top of a pile of straw in the middle of the playground, set it afire, and let the students watch. If we do something like this, the students will learn to really hate America."

"I'll burn the doll this weekend," said Mr. Mizutani, a fifth-grade teacher. "The principal can announce then at the student assembly next Tuesday that the doll has been destroyed. We need to dispose of the doll as soon as possible, since we have an order from the Board of Education. We're near the end of the school year, so we don't have time to organize a student activity to destroy the doll."

"I agree," said the principal. "Please burn the doll this weekend."

Mrs. Yamada could not believe that Mr. Mizutani volunteered to destroy Rosemary. They had been friends for the past eight years since his arrival as a new teacher at Izumi in 1935. Mr. Mizutani, even though he was 30 years old, did not join the military because one of his legs was two inches shorter than the other one. Even with his special shoes, he walked with a pronounced limp.

After the meeting, Mrs. Yamada told Mr. Mizutani that she wanted to talk alone, so they went upstairs to the library. "How can you do such a terrible thing?" she said.

"Don't worry, I have a plan," he said quietly. "Just the idea of burning a doll upsets me, and I couldn't bear having the children watch her destruction. I plan to hide her, and then I'll tell the principal the doll has been destroyed."

"But what if you get caught? You'll lose your job, and even worse the military police could throw you in jail as an enemy sympathizer."

"Don't worry, I'll be careful." Mr. Mizutani went to the art room. He took Rosemary, along with the large envelope with her passport and other items, out of the box in the closet. He went to his classroom and placed Rosemary inside a tall cabinet in the back corner near the hallway door.

Mr. Mizutani decided to set the fire late Saturday afternoon when the children and most of the teachers had returned home after classes. He carried Rosemary's wooden box from the art room closet to the area where refuse was burned behind the maintenance shed. The night before he had put some rags and papers in the box so it would appear a doll had been burned if anyone came to check. He used wood next to the maintenance shed to start a large fire. He waited until the heat became intense and tossed the box into the flames. The thin wooden box soon disappeared in the blaze. As Mr. Mizutani stared into the fire, he spotted Mr. Asano walking toward him across the playground.

Mr. Asano smiled as he walked up next to the fire. "Has that spy been burned?"

"Yes, I'm just finishing," said Mr. Mizutani.

"Well, I still think the children should have destroyed the doll," said Mr. Asano. "It would have been a great lesson for them."

"Yes, too bad we're so busy next week," said Mr. Mizutani.

Mr. Asano walked back to the school building, and Mr. Mizutani put out the fire with water after it had burned for another ten minutes. He stayed at the school building until everyone had left before taking Rosemary out of the cabinet in his classroom. He carefully wrapped her in a large reddish-purple dyed cloth he had brought from home. When he lifted her, she cried "mama" from underneath the cloth. "Don't worry, you can play again with the children when peace returns." He carried the bundle to the end of the hall and opened the door to the attic stairs. After going up the staircase, he turned on the bare light bulbs that hung down here and there in the huge attic that extended almost the entire length of the school. Although this concrete building had been built in 1934, the attic contained old furniture and many dusty boxes of records, calligraphy, pictures, and books going back to when Izumi Elementary School was established in 1874. Mr. Mizutani went far back into the attic and found a grimy wooden box for Rosemary. He placed Rosemary inside, put some old papers over the wrapped doll, and shut the box tightly. "Sleep well, I'll return to see you."

* * *

For thirty years, until 1973, Rosemary remained hidden. Walking along the narrow street toward Izumi Elementary School, Kiyoko thinks back to Mr. Mizutani's bravery in defying an order from the militaristic government. "Although he never fought in a battle, surely he is a war hero," she thinks.

As Kiyoko walks near where her home used to stand, she recalls the horrors and suffering of the war. In the summer of 1943, Kiyoko's father left Japan to fight in the war, and two years later she heard the crushing news of his being killed in the Philippines. She thinks of the pocketsize doll that she gave to him when he left home never to return. She also remembers the sad day in August 1944 when she had to leave Okayama with her mother. Because of the threat of American attack on the city, she moved to her grandma's house in the rural town of Asahi and joined the sixth-grade class at the small school there. Her 17-year-old brother did not accompany them, since he had to continue working at the Mitsubishi airplane factory in a nearby city. As Kiyoko remembers these hard times, she says softly to herself, "I guess Rosemary failed in her mission to bring peace between Japan and America."

Kiyoko finished elementary school in March 1945, but the junior high school and high school then suspended operations. Her class joined the student corps to fight the enemy if the Japanese mainland were attacked. She recalls the frightening military training, when she and her classmates stabbed straw dummies with bamboo spears and cried out, "American and British Devils!" One night in late June 1945, American B-29s dropped incendiary bombs and destroyed over half of Okayama City, including their house. Soon after the war finally ended in August 1945, Kiyoko moved with her mother and brother to Kyoto Prefecture to live with relatives.

Kiyoko remembers her excitement last summer, in 1973, when she read a newspaper article about the discovery of Rosemary in an old wooden box in the attic of Izumi Elementary School. Mr. Mizutani, 61 years old and still living in Okayama, had returned to Izumi last July to search for the old American doll. He went up to the attic, which looked much different than the day he hid the doll in 1943. He searched for more than an hour, but finally at the bottom of a stack of four wooden boxes, he found where the doll had escaped the darkness of the war and slept long after. He unwrapped the dyed cloth, and he laughed with happiness as she cried "mama" when he raised her up.

On March 15, 1973, NHK Television broadcast the program "Mary, the Goodwill Doll," which reported the discovery of a blue-eyed doll from America at a small elementary school in the mountains of Gunma Prefecture. After that program, several other schools reported they also had American friendship dolls from 1927 that had survived the war. Although Mr. Mizutani missed the television program, he later read a newspaper article about the discovery of several American blue-eyed dolls throughout Japan. Since the war he had not thought about the doll at Izumi Elementary School. In 1944, he had to leave Izumi to work as a clerk in a local war office, and he transferred to another elementary school after the war. The confusion and misery of wartime made him forget Rosemary until he read the newspaper article. He phoned the principal of Izumi to say that he taught there during the war and that he would like to search for the doll.

After the discovery of the blue-eyed doll, Izumi's principal planned a special celebration for the following Doll Festival on March 3, 1974. Rosemary would return to her place of honor on the doll display stand, and Mr. Mizutani would give a speech to the students. The principal invited former students and teachers to attend the ceremony.

Kiyoko turns left at the street corner and sees the rain-stained brownish-gray concrete fašade of Izumi Elementary. The two tall pine trees on each side of the school's front gate look the same as when she attended the school. She enters the school about a half-hour before the start of the ceremony, and two sixth-grade students escort her to the gym. When she enters the gym, instead of sitting in one of visitor chairs indicated by the students, she hurries to the front to see the doll stand. Rosemary, dressed in her classy black coat and beret, stands in the middle of the top row looking at her. Kiyoko remembers the Doll Festival of long ago when Rosemary stood with the Japanese dolls around her. Kiyoko stands in front of the display for several minutes looking at Rosemary's cute face, short blond hair, and old black shoes. She looks at the many Japanese dolls surrounding Rosemary and recalls the fun times she had celebrating the Doll Festival as a little girl. Finally, she goes back to her seat.

The ceremony starts with the children singing "Blue-eyed Doll," the popular prewar song about an American doll that came to Japan. As they sing the song, the principal enters the gym. Mr. Mizutani, with his familiar limp, follows slowly after the principal. When the song finishes, the principal introduces Rosemary and Mr. Mizutani to the students. The principal holds up Rosemary's new reddish-pink dress with lace trim, made by one of the teachers to replace the doll's moth-eaten dress. He also points to Rosemary's new wooden display case on a table next to the doll stand. Starting next week, Rosemary will be displayed at the entrance of the school.

Mr. Mizutani then walks slowly to the center of the stage, stands behind the microphone, and tells the students how Rosemary survived the war. The last part of his story reminds Kiyoko again of the war's dark times. "About a month after I hid Rosemary in the attic, a military policeman visited the school to verify what had happened to the American doll," said Mr. Mizutani. "The principal explained to the policeman that the doll had been burned, but he still inspected several rooms and interviewed teachers to confirm the doll had been destroyed in accordance with the Board of Education's order. The policeman came to talk to me, and I took him to where the wooden box had been burned. I was very afraid he would find out the truth, but he left after looking at the pile of ashes."

Mr. Mizutani then explains why Rosemary came to Izumi. "This doll was sent to Japan long ago to promote friendship, understanding, and peace between Japanese and American children." Kiyoko looks at the children, who listen intently to his final words encouraging them to be friends with everyone, including people from all foreign countries. She thinks, "Rosemary really did succeed in her mission of friendship."

Acknowledgments

Nakanojo Daisan Elementary School, Gunma Prefecture (welcome song)
Osawa Elementary School, Koshigaya City, Saitama Prefecture (portion of letter)
Sapporo Clock Tower Museum, Hokkaido Prefecture (portion of letter)


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