by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Tahara Chubu Elementary School
February 28, 2002

School's fine choir sings
the Mickey Mouse theme song
Chubu Elementary School is located in Aichi Prefecture in the town of Tahara, which borders the Pacific Ocean. Tahara is adjacent to the city of Toyohashi, where I visited Saigo Elementary School last November. I went to Tahara Chubu Elementary School because Saigo's principal had told me that he had received a phone call from Tahara Chubu's principal, Mr. Fujishiro, asking me to visit after he had seen some newspaper articles about my visit to Saigo Elementary. During the evening of February 27, Principal Fujishiro and Mr. Owa, the Education Director, took me by the school to see several kamakuras built outside the school. A kamakura is an igloo-like structure built of snow with candles lit inside, and several children were playing around them in the evening when we dropped by.

The day at the school started with an assembly attended by all of the 350 students. After some welcoming speeches, the school's nationally-recognized choir sang two beautiful songs. The choir of about 50 students was recently ranked among the 10 best elementary school choirs in Japan. I was surprised when before the second song the students and the choir director put on mouse ears and then sang the Mickey Mouse theme song. A couple of young children in the audience got so excited that they started to sing the song before the choir, which seemed to startle the choir director.

During my talk I discussed several topics, including the Friendship Dolls exchanged between Japan and America in 1927. It is a challenge to find topics to hold the interest of both young children in first grade and older children in sixth grade, but they all seemed to enjoy my lesson on the "correct" way to shake hands. Three volunteers from the audience practiced the five points of shaking hands:

(1) use your right hand
(2) clasp the other person's hand firmly
(3) look at the other person's eyes
(4) smile
(5) say some nice words like "nice to meet you"

After the lesson, the students in the audience had an opportunity to practice with their friends.

Talking with Students at Morning Assembly
After a short visit to each of the classrooms, I talked with one of the sixth-grade classes. The students had prepared beforehand many questions about the Friendship Dolls. The teacher also had some questions about war, so we had some discussion about whether war is ever justified. As a specific example, we discussed the terrorist acts of September 11, 2001, and the subsequent war in Afghanistan. In March the teacher sent me a long e-mail that contained the opinion of each student regarding war. The majority of students believed that war in rare cases may be necessary, but many also expressed concerns about the innocent people in Afghanistan who have been killed and wounded in the war there. 
The name of the Blue-eyed Doll at Tahara Chubu Elementary School is Marshall Central. I told the students that it sounded like the name of a school, rather than the name of a girl doll. It also seemed like "Marshall" is a boy's rather than a girl's name. The doll at Tahara Chubu Elementary School is unlike most of the other Blue-eyed Dolls because it is a baby doll, so it is difficult to tell for certain whether it is a boy or a girl. The doll's passport says Marshall Central's birthplace is Marysville, Kansas. Interestingly, Marysville is the county seat of Marshall County.

The Principal and the Education Director were very kind to give me copies of several articles about Marshall Central and Miss Aichi, the Friendship Doll sent to America from Japan in late 1927. The whereabouts of Miss Aichi is not known now, but the school has a 1927 photo of the doll. Some of the article copies given to me were originally published in 1927 in the Home and School magazine, a publication of the Tahara Town Board of Education.

Friendship Visits - February and March 2002

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