by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Azumi Elementary School
November 19, 2001

Shower of Confetti
The small village of Azumi lies nested between the mountains of the Japanese Alps in Nagano Prefecture. Azumi Village has a population of 2,500, and the combined elementary and junior high school has only about 100 students. The mountain scenery viewed from the school's classrooms is quite beautiful.

I spent most of the day with the sixth-grade students, but I also had the opportunity to meet and talk with the other elementary school students. When I entered the sixth-grade classroom, the students asked me to pull a string attached to a box hanging from the ceiling. I pulled, and the unopened box fell to the floor with everyone laughing. Since the contraption did not work as planned, I had to stand as one of the students poured a boxful of confetti over my head in order to welcome me.

Showing Photo of
Blue-eyed Dolls
During the last half of Japanese language class, the sixth graders each had to think of four kanji (Chinese characters) to represent my name. Each of the students then wrote the characters on the board and explained to me why they chose them. All of the students' ideas were quite good, but I was asked to choose the one I liked best. I selected the four characters that could be used to describe my company, a jet engine manufacturer. Later in the day, Mr. Shinichi Soyama, the sixth-grade teacher, wrote these characters and the school's name in beautiful calligraphy and presented it to me.

Before lunch I spoke to a school assembly for the elementary school students. Many of the students, especially the younger ones, had never seen the school's Blue-eyed Doll named Mary, which was sent from America in 1927. I found out later that the doll usually is kept in one of the two large safes in the principal's office. I was not able to show the doll during the presentation since during November and December the doll is at the Shinano Education Museum in Nagano City, where there is a special exhibition of all 23 Blue-eyed Dolls in Nagano Prefecture.

Singing "Blue-eyed Doll"
The sixth graders knew a great deal about the Blue-eyed Dolls. One girl mentioned how much she enjoyed reading about the history of the dolls. Each of the sixth-grade students had signed a sheet supporting the homecoming of Miss Nagano, the Japanese Friendship Doll sent to America in 1927. The sixth-grade students of Watauchi Elementary School in Nagano City are coordinating this signature campaign to bring Miss Nagano back from the US to Nagano Prefecture for a visit. At the end of the school assembly, the sixth-graders sang "Blue-eyed Doll."
View from Classroom
During the day I had a chance to chat for a short time with Ms. Hiroko Maeda, the librarian of the school. She has a lot of knowledge about the Friendship Dolls, and she created the web page on Azumi's Blue-eyed Doll Mary.

After the students finished cleaning the school, I faced one of my greatest challenges of my three-week trip to Japan. I joined in a soccer game with the fifth and sixth graders. The game was played in the gymnasium with modified rules, so I did not have to run as much as a regular soccer game, but some of my muscles were still sore a couple of days later.

During the last period of the day, the sixth-grade students had time to look at some of the items I had brought from the US, such as picture post cards, stamps, photos, and money. The students presented me with some beautiful place mats woven by hand on a loom. They also gave me some recycled aluminum bars with my name or some other word, which the students had engraved on them.

Sixth-grade Class

Friendship Visits - November 2001

Page on Azumi Elementary School's Blue-eyed Doll

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