by Bill Gordon

Friendship Visits
Watauchi Elementary School
March 1 and 2, 2002

Fourth Graders

The city of Nagano, site of the 1998 Olympics, is quite large, but Watauchi Elementary School is located far away from the busy center. When I arrived at the school on Friday morning and met all of the teachers, I was impressed by their cheerfulness and by how they seemed to really enjoy working together as a group.

During the day's visit I gave separate talks to the 1st, 2nd, 4th, and 6th graders. The students in each class were excited to see free brochures of sites in southern California, such as Sea World, Disneyland, the San Diego Zoo, and Universal Studios. After my talk to the first-grade class, the children presented me with a packet of seeds, and I was surprised when they all excitedly escorted me down the hall to my next talk with the school's second graders.

First Graders Looking at
American Money and Stamps
The sixth graders at Watauchi Elementary School have been doing special studies and activities related to the Friendship Dolls during the entire school year (April 2001 to March 2002). These students had formed seven groups to perform various activities related to the Friendship Dolls, and the children prepared many special exhibits for the Blue-eyed Doll Exhibition at the Shinano Education Museum in November and December 2001. My desire to meet the sixth-grade students who did these special activities was the reason why I decided to visit Watauchi Elementary School.

For lunch I had the privilege to eat together with about 12 sixth-grade students who are members of the Internet Team for their studies of Friendship Dolls. This group had created various web pages on topics such as Mary, the doll given to the school in 1927 by America; Paula, the new Blue-eyed Doll given to the school last year by Sidney Gulick, 3d; and Miss Nagano, the Japanese Friendship Doll from 1927 now at the museum of the Historical Society of Delaware. During the lunch with the Internet Team, I got the inside story from one of the students about who likes whom among the boys and girls in the group, although there were many denials by the students. One girl's dream was to be a translator, and she was quite brave to try out some of her English during the lunch.

Sixth Graders
I learned many things during my time in the afternoon with all of the sixth graders. Many expressed their strong desire to see the homecoming of Miss Nagano from Delaware to Nagano Prefecture. Over 5,000 signatures had already been collected from Nagano Prefecture residents in support of the homecoming of Miss Nagano. Everyone seemed familiar with Michiko Takaoka, who has done much research on the Japanese Friendship Dolls in the U.S. Some students had written to her to get advice about how to accomplish the homecoming of Miss Nagano. Almost all of the sixth-grade students had attended the Blue-eyed Doll Exhibit at Shinano Education Museum in November and December of 2001. A couple of students mentioned they were impressed by the height of Miss Fukuoka, the Japanese Friendship Doll on display at the museum with the 23 Blue-eyed Dolls of Nagano Prefecture.

On Saturday morning, the sixth graders gave presentations on their Friendship Doll studies to an all-school assembly in the gymnasium. For many years elementary school students in Japan attended school every Saturday morning, but a few years ago school attendance was reduced to every other Saturday. Starting April 2002, Japanese students will only attend school on weekdays and will no longer have to go to school on Saturdays.

Two Friendship Dolls
Surrounded by 6th Graders
At the Friendship Doll assembly on Saturday morning, many students' parents and about 20 special guests attended. The special guests included local residents who had assisted the sixth graders during the school year in their studies and activities related to the Friendship Dolls exchanged between Japan and America. For example, the guests included:
  • the man who made a new wig for Watauchi's Blue-eyed Doll Mary
  • several older local residents who were students at Watauchi when the doll arrived in 1927
  • the President of the Shinano Education Association, which sponsored the exhibit of all of Nagano Prefecture's 23 Blue-eyed Dolls; the Director of the Association's museum; and the Editor of the Association's journal
  • relatives of the teacher who had hid Watauchi's Blue-eyed Doll during World War II

Each of the seven groups gave a presentation about their activities. The children in the audience were delighted by a skit performed about Sidney Gulick, his times, and the dolls exchanged between Japan and America. One sixth-grade boy dressed up as a cute Blue-eyed Doll from America, and a girl played the role as a Black-eyed Doll from Japan. The theme "world peace through children" was emphasized during the skit.

The Miss Nagano Homecoming Group asked multiple-choice questions to the other students at the assembly. For example, in what American state is Miss Nagano being kept now?  (A) Kentucky, (B) New York, or (C) Delaware. Almost all of the students raised their hands for (B) New York, even though the correct answer is (C) Delaware. The group also had questions about the color of her kimono and the length of her hair.

First Graders
During the assembly, the school's two Blue-eyed Dolls, Mary and Paula; a Japanese Ichimatsu doll; and several hina dolls in a glass case were placed on the stage. At the end of the presentations, the sixth graders, who were graduating in about three weeks, encouraged the fifth graders to continue on with their Friendship Doll activities to establish peace and build friendships in the world.

Dolls on Stage at Assembly on March 2

Friendship Visits - February and March 2002

Pages on Watauchi's Elementary School's Blue-eyed Doll and New Blue-eyed Doll

Main Page | 1927 Doll Exchange | Japanese Friendship Dolls | American Blue-eyed Dolls
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Other Friendship Doll Programs | Teachers' Corner
Links | Recent Changes | Acknowledgements
| Children's Page