by Bill Gordon

Japanese Friendship Dolls
Welcomed to Roaring Brook School

Student representatives holding Haru (left) and
Maiko (right) next to Kerry Lurate, Doll Liaison

Roaring Brook Elementary School celebrated Children's Day by welcoming two beautiful Japanese dolls named Haru and Maiko. On May 5, 2003, the school's 660 students attended a special assembly in the gym to greet the two dolls that had been received from Japan through the Friendship Doll Program sponsored by Mukogawa Fort Wright Institute.

Dr. Crisanne Colgan, Roaring Brook Principal, describes the assembly, "We enjoyed learning about Japanese culture and the history of the doll ambassadors dating back to 1927. We are very excited about the special bond that now exists between Roaring Brook School and Japan, and we are eager to expand this friendship over the next several years."

Colleen Casey-Nelson, mother of a first-grade student, played a leading role in organizing the assembly. She says, "We are thrilled about the dolls and want the excitement to pass on to the students. The school is in the early stages of learning about Japanese culture -- these dolls will hopefully be a springboard for the students and teachers." Mrs. Casey-Nelson has been interested in Friendship Dolls for several years. In 1998, she was the music teacher at Smalley Academy (New Britain, Connecticut) when the school received two Friendship Dolls.

(from left) Noriko and Bill Gordon, Principal
Crisanne Colgan, and Takayuki Yoneda
After the students began the assembly with the Pledge of Allegiance and singing "America the Beautiful," Dr. Colgan greeted the students in a stylish blue kimono. My wife Noriko then talked about Children's Day and coordinated a kimono fashion show with students serving as models. Mrs. Casey-Nelson told the students about the different types of kimonos as the students walked across the stage. I gave the students a brief background on Japanese geography and holidays.

The first-grade students then performed a Bon Odori -- Japanese festival dance -- around the students. The children used towels from Japan as part of the dance, and several of them were dressed in colorful kimonos or kimono-looking robes. I then gave the students a brief history of the Japanese-American Friendship Dolls and showed them some slides of dolls from the exchange in 1927. Takayuki Yoneda, President of the Japan-America Society of Connecticut, formally presented the two Japanese Friendship Dolls to the student representatives. The assembly closed with the students singing the song "Friendship."

Dr. Colgan gives her feelings, "It was a most fitting and touching closure to hear our children sing in unison about friendship as the key to love and joy. We are honored and privileged to be part of this international program based on the belief that children will be the unifying force for bringing peace to the world."

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