By Michiko Takaoka
Given at Hina Matsuri, The Doll Festival, celebrated
    at Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute on March 3, 2005

The Friendship Ambassadors

We are pleased to welcome the Honorable Consul General and Mrs. Tanaka, distinguished guests, school children, Mukogawa students, ladies and gentlemen to this celebration. It is impressive to see so many smiling faces and so many dolls in this hall. A special feeling of friendship fills this room this morning.

The Doll Festival, Hina Matsuri, has more than 1,000 years of history of giving the message for young girls' happiness. Hina means a chick, a newly-born bird, a tiny thing or a cute creature. Matsuri means a festival. Hina Matsuri or the doll festival originated as a family tradition, and Hina dolls were displayed in homes, and were handed down from mothers to daughters for generations. Hina dolls are reminders of grandmas, grandpas, mothers' cooking, happy childhood, and friends.

These days, Hina doll sets are displayed at school, hotels, department stores, and everywhere in Japan during the month of March. After being displayed for one month, the Hina dolls are put back into boxes and stored.

Today we are also displaying a newly received samurai doll set with his armor and helmet, and other accessories. This display is usually seen only at the Boys' Day Festival on May 5th. Samurai dolls symbolize the power and ambition of boys. They too are displayed at homes, schools, and the Japanese Cultural Center in May.

The symbol of Hina Matsuri is peach flowers. In Japanese culture, the seasonal flavor is very important. Long ago many people believed peach trees and peach flowers had magical power to expel evil spirits. Also, after a long cold winter, peach flowers are the forerunners of cheerful spring.

In Japan, March is the time of change: graduations are held in March, and a new school year begins in April. Spring time is the season of growth and new beginnings. Hina dolls evoke these feelings for Japanese. 


Miss Tokushima

Photo courtesy of
Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture


Now, let me introduce you to Miss Tokushima, a very quiet smiling lady. She was born in Tokyo in 1927. She is 78 years old. She looks so young for her age. She is not only a display doll, but she can also bend her arms and legs. She can even sit in a Japanese way. She also has a small voice box in her body like American mama dolls! She resides at the Northwest Museum of Arts & Culture in Spokane.

It was early in 1992 when I saw Miss Tokushima at the then Cheney Cowles Museum. She was in the old trunk you see beside her on stage. Right away, I decided to have a doll festival with her in Spokane. First, I wanted to thank the Spokane community for the excellent long time care and protection of her. Second, I wanted to share this wonderful story with our students and the American people, especially with children.

We celebrated the first Doll Festival on March 3, 1992, at the Cheney Cowles Museum. Since then Miss Tokushima has been attending the Doll Festival in spring and fall every year. This is the fourteenth Hina Matsuri with Miss Tokushima. By now she has met more than 8,000 American and Japanese people in this hall. Miss Tokushima is one of the most active and busiest doll Ambassadors in the entire United States.

Inspired by the noble spirit of the original Friendship Doll Exchange, Mukogawa started a new Friendship Doll Program in 1993. We have already given 560 sets of new Friendship Dolls to American educational institutions in all the 50 states and Washington, D.C. In return, 102 American educational institutions have sent dolls, letters, school albums, etc., to Japanese schools through the program.

This year we have some very special guests with us. The first guest is the American doll sitting next to Miss Tokushima. She is one of the original American ambassador dolls named Mary Blanner. Mary was presented to Kami-Aso Elementary School in Gifu Prefecture, in the central part of Japan, in 1927. However, for some reason, she was given to Ms. Mitsuko Tanahashi in 1960. Mitsuko always thought of Mary as her sister. We are very privileged to have Ms. Tanahashi here in Spokane. I feel as if Miss Tokushima and Mary were chatting about their memories of 78 years.

I hope all of you will listen to the silent messages of the Friendship Dolls. One person makes a difference. Dr. Sidney L. Gulick first showed this fantastic path. Now, it is up to us, my friends, whether or not we broaden this path for peace and friendship in the world. Please join us in this noble project. Thank you. 

Hina Around the World

This year, travel was definitely part of Hina Matsuri. Travelers came from coast to coast and across the Pacific. All told, 24,728 miles were earned.

The original 1927 Miss Mary Blanner doll was escorted by her owner, Mitsuko Tanahashi, and a colleague, Tatsuo Uotsugi, a doll researcher, both coming from Gifu Prefecture, Japan. Both joined Michiko and Patrice in Boise, Idaho, on the following Saturday, March 5. The Idaho Historical Museum hosted their first Hina Matsuri with Miss Nara, who is a torei doll like Miss Tokushima. There were songs, stories, and Japanese Friendship doll presentations to a packed room of 326.

Recipients in the 2005 Friendship Doll program came from across the U.S. Terry Kita represented the Friendship Ambassador Program and came from Virginia. Also from the East Coast, Jillian Buono and her mother Lisa represented Sanfordville Elementary in Warwick, NY. They arrived one day late from a snow-bound New York. Representing Castaic Elementary, about 100 miles from Los Angeles, came three girls with their mothers and teacher: Alexis Bergstrom, Madisen Dewey, Jaclyn Sigmen, all age 8; their teacher Lynda Ashley; and mothers Gretchen, Felicia, and Gina. They were warmly hosted by the third floor of Covington.

Also attending on March 3rd were: All Families Montessori, Holmes Elementary, WSU Outreach Education, and Westview Elementary. We would like to congratulate all forty-one 2005 Recipients.

The Japanese Cultural Center
Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute
4000 W Randolph Road
Spokane, WA 99224

Phone: 509-328-2971
Fax: 509-325-6540

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Speech given at Doll Festival celebrated at MFWI on March 3, 2003

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