By Michiko Takaoka
For Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival, celebrated
at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute on March 1, 2002
Friendship Doll Ambassadors
It is my sincere honor to greet the Honorable Consul General of Japan Seattle, Fumiko Saiga; Mr. Randy Withrow, Chief of Staff for the Mayor of Spokane; Mr. Bruce Eldredge, Chief Executive Officer, and Ms. Yvonne Morton, Media Relations/Publications Manager, from the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture.
I am especially pleased to welcome our guests who have come from across the U.S. From the east coast, we welcome Heidi Upson representing Forest Edge School in Virginia. From central Montana, we welcome Carol Smith, Etsuko Asada with 6 students and 2 parent escorts representing Judith Gap School. From the furthest west edge of the U.S., we welcome Carol Burke and Nancy Hirahara from Waianae School in Hawaii. Please follow me to say aloha, a Hawaiian welcome to everyone here today, A-lo-ha!
I am very much impressed to see so many smiling faces and so many dolls in this hall! There is a special feeling of friendship everywhere. My special thanks to Mr. Haralam and his students for telling the Friendship Doll story in such a wonderful way. Thank you.
The Doll Festival, Hina Matsuri, has more than 1,000 years of history of giving the message for young girls' happiness. Hina means chick--a newly born bird, a tiny thing and a cute creature. Originating as a family tradition, Hina dolls are displayed in homes and are handed down from mother to daughter for generations. These days, Hina doll sets like the one displayed here are also displayed at schools, hotels, department stores and everywhere in Japan during the month of March. After displaying the hina dolls for one month, we put them back into boxes and store them away.
The symbol of Hina Matsuri is Peach flowers. Hina dolls are the reminders of family history, of grandma, grandpa, of mother's cooking, happy childhood and of friends. Additionally in Japan, March is the time of change: graduations are held in March and a new school year begins in April. Springtime is the season of growth and new beginnings. Hina dolls send these feelings to the Japanese.
Now let me introduce you to Miss Tokushima, who was born in Tokyo in 1927. She is 75 years old. She looks so young for her age. She is not only a display doll, she can bend her arms and legs and she can even sit in a Japanese way. She also has a small voice box in her body like America mama dolls!
Miss Tokushima and her 57 sister dolls are top class artistic dolls who came to the US as dolls of friendship. They are called the Torei dolls or gratitude dolls. Every doll has a different story of how it was kept, loved, lost and found. Today I would like to tell you about three of Miss Tokushima's sisters.
First, listen to the story about Miss Hiroshima who came to live at the Baltimore Museum of Art in Maryland. It is also the story of how three women, one American and two Japanese, worked together to keep Miss Hiroshima safe.
Miss Hiroshima was sent to the Baltimore Museum of Art in 1928, but for some reason, the doll was hidden in the basement of the Enoch Pratt Library for years. When the war began, Japanese and Americans became enemies. Mrs. Emily Parker Simon, Director of the Baltimore Peace Center, a Quaker lady, asked Mrs. Toku Mary Sugiyama and her mother Kuniko, both Japanese-Americans, to protect this doll. Mrs. Simon asked them to take Miss Hiroshima to their house, away from the public eye, because of very bad sentiment towards the Japanese.
The Sugiyamas took good care of the doll all during the war years. After the war when Miss Hiroshima returned to the museum, there was another crucial moment. Because Miss Hiroshima came from the place where the atomic bomb was dropped at the end of the war, some Americans did not want to see her. It was reported that this doll must be removed.
War changes the feelings of people even when they look at a smiling doll face. It is a sad part of our history we should remember. Today the Miss Hiroshima doll is safe and loved by the people of Baltimore, and Mary Sugiyama remains active in the Friendship Doll Program.
The next story is a happy one about a doll owned by Mrs. Elaine Christiansen in Massachusetts, a doll collector who bought a big doll in a small antique shop in her town many, many years ago. She just loved this doll, although the doll was not perfect. The doll had lost one foot and one sleeve from her kimono, and the face and hair were damaged. Elaine instantly felt this doll was special, and she dearly loved and took good care of this big Japanese doll. Her father, who was a craftsman, added a new foot.
Thirty-six years passed, and Elaine had searched to find out about her doll. It was not until 1986 that she saw an article about the Japanese Friendship Dolls in an antique magazine. Still she did not know the doll's name. Just three years ago, Elaine was searching on the Internet and found out about my research on the Japanese Torei dolls. Through friends, I came to know Elaine and her doll's story. When I saw the picture of Elaine's doll, I knew the doll was the original Miss Aomori. I sent her copies of Miss Aomori's original photos and of her belongings. Miss Aomori had a parasol, two pairs of shoes, a coat, shawl, futons or bed mattress, sewing set, cosmetics, brush pen set, and even a toothbrush.
Elaine was delighted to see how Miss Aomori looked so long ago when her doll was in good condition and had so many wonderful possessions. But at the same time, Elaine felt a little sad because this beautiful treasure, her Miss Aomori doll, must have suffered to receive so much damage. Elaine wrote to me, "I wonder what her life was like before we met?"
Elaine also thought about the people of Aomori in northern Japan. So Elaine wrote a letter as if it had been written by her doll and sent it to the people of Aomori. She wrote, "I (Miss Aomori) lost a few things along the way but not my spirit." Elaine and her husband Les continue to love their big Japanese doll, and Miss Aomori enjoys peaceful and happy days.
The third story is another happy story of a doll owned by Marvin E. Herring, M.D., and his wife Flo, who live in New Jersey. They are very enthusiastic doll collectors. They also enjoy Japanese arts. In November of 1988, they attended an antique show near their home. They were walking past many crowded booths. Then almost by some magic power, they heard something calling to them. As they turned back to see, there half hidden by other objects, they caught a glimpse of a beautiful face. It was the most beautiful doll face they had ever seen. They were stunned. It was as if she were calling, "Here I am, here I am!"
The Herrings knew about the Friendship Doll story, but they were not sure whether this doll was a Torei doll. They only sensed that she was very special and that the doll had found them. They bought the doll and named her Momoko, Peach Girl, for her lovable face, posture, and pink kimono.
It was early in 1992 when I saw my first Torei doll, Miss Tokushima. I saw her at the Cheney Cowles Museum. She was in the old trunk you see beside her on stage. I too was overwhelmed by her smile and beauty. It seemed that she called out to me to celebrate the Doll Festival here in Spokane. We celebrated the first Doll Festival on March 3, 1992, at Cheney Cowles Museum. Since then Miss Tokushima has been attending celebrations every year. This is the eleventh Hina Matsuri with Miss Tokushima. She is the most active and busiest doll Ambassador in the entire U.S.
Every time I see a Friendship Doll, American or Japanese, I think about all the dreams and all the millions of people who have sent letters, made clothes, or protected the dolls. And here we are today, part of this noble vision first begun by Dr. Sidney Gulick so many years ago.
We would like to recognize the Northwest Museum of Arts and Culture for their generosity and spirit of friendship, which allow us to bring Miss Tokushima here today. Recently, the Museum has had many changes. There is a new name, NW MAC, and a beautiful new building featuring many exhibits that are "user friendly" which portrays our communities, our common bonds and celebrations of our diversity.
Listen to the silent message of the Friendship Dolls. One person makes a difference. Dr. Gulick first walked this fantastic path for us. It is up to us to bring peace and friendship in the world. Please join us. Thank you.
The Japanese Cultural Center
Speech given at Doll Festival celebrated at MFWI on March 3, 2001
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